Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, Diverse & Resilient explore merger

Boards to vote in July on possible union

Gerald Coon

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and Milwaukee-based Diverse & Resilient are considering joining forces in their efforts to serve the city’s LGBTQ community.

The boards of both nonprofits are completing a due diligence process to examine a possible merger of their organizations.

Diverse & Resilient, which was founded in 1995, works to address health disparities among LGBTQ people in Wisconsin, both through advocacy and direct-service work. The organization serves about 2,000 people annually and has 11 employees.

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, which was founded in 1998, provides various programs and services to the LGBTQ community, including support groups, a senior program, trainings, a library, youth programs and HIV prevention and testing. The most recent publicly available tax filing from the organization shows that as of 2016, it had 17 employees.

Having collaborated over the years, the organizations first considered co-locating in a shared space two years ago, when each was facing expiring leases in its current space. The community center is located at 1110 N. Market St., near the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus. Diverse & Resilient is located at 2439 N. Holton St., near Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.

While they ultimately didn’t co-locate, conversations about a possible merger ramped up in January, following the departure of former community center executive director Karen Gotzler.

“We work closely together now as it is and, in looking at the funding landscape, we felt it was an opportunity and wise thing to look at whether this made sense to merge the organizations,” said Gerald Coon, president and chief executive officer of Diverse & Resilient.

Stephanie Sue Stein, interim executive director for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, said the boards are currently evaluating whether their missions are best aligned as one organization.

“Our boards are committed to asking the right questions,” she said. “What is best for the community? That’s the bottom line. If we were to join forces, do we form a stronger organization that will serve the LGBT community in a better, more comprehensive way?”

Both organizations rely on government grants to fund their work. Government sources make up about 80 percent of Diverse & Resilient’s revenue, Coon said. He estimated that number is closer to 60 percent for the LGBT Community Center.

In 2016 tax filings, Diverse & Resilient reported revenues of $1.4 million. That year, the LGBT Community Center reported $770,000 in revenue.

Coon said there would be a change in name and branding if the organizations ultimately decide to merge, but specific changes aren’t being discussed at this point.

The community center’s board of directors held a listening session for members this week to gather feedback on the possible merger. Stein said the discussion was largely positive.

“People were passionate about the center but there was no overt concern about a merger,” she said.

The boards plan to vote on the possible merger in late July.

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