By Nathan Manske, Executive Director, I’m From Driftwood
“You are not alone.” It’s a message that resonates with everyone, and it’s the message I’m From Driftwood, through the power of storytelling, has been sending to LGBTQ people for 11 years.
Now, while the feeling of isolation is skyrocketing and revenue from fundraisers is plummeting, I’m From Driftwood is faced with a common challenge confronting small nonprofits worldwide: do we freeze or decrease our programming, which means in our case stop publishing first-person LGBTQ Video Stories every single week, so that our funds can be stretched out longer? Or do we push forward and continue sharing stories at a time when our community needs them the most, but risk our funds drying up?
The challenge reminded me of a conversation I had with our Board Chair after a meeting. I was struggling with a decision—I’ve since forgotten what it was even about—but I’ll always remember the guidance he offered. He said, “Look…we are the very few people who get to determine what kind of organization I’m From Driftwood is going to be. So think hard about what kind of organization you want it to be and make a decision based on that.”
He didn’t push me in either direction, but he did help me refocus my thoughts to what our singular mission is as a nonprofit: combat isolation in the LGBTQ community. Thinking back to that conversation helped me this past March when I wasn’t sure if I should slow down our programming or not, and the decision became easier than ever. While it presented more risk to us as an organization, if we’re not serving our community, what’s the point of our existence anyway?
So push forward is exactly what we did, and hard. In May, we launched a new program called “Story Update” in which we interview previous storytellers via Zoom about updates on their stories and lives.
And we kept pushing. In late June, we’re launching another new program, the I’m From Driftwood Podcast, in which two hosts listen to existing stories and lead a conversation about the topics of the stories, from love, immigration, and coming out, to issues surrounding aging, gender identity, and workplace discrimination.
While we currently can’t meet people face-to-face to create professionally-produced Video Stories, we are sharing existing stories in new ways and across more media, reaching more people, and leading conversations around important topics facing the LGBTQ community. By doing so, we are combating isolation in the LGBTQ community more than ever. And our message is being heard loud and clear. With nearly 25 million views on YouTube alone, the need for these stories and the need for belonging has been heard from countries all over the world.
To answer my Board Chair’s question, I want I’m From Driftwood to be like the LGBTQ community itself: adaptive, resilient, strong, united, and focused. Fighting isolation has been a constant struggle for members of the LGBTQ community, and I hope you’ll join me this Pride month by resisting that feeling of being alone. If you do feel alone—everyone does sometimes—please know that you aren’t. And if it helps, dive into our archive of stories until you find a story that helps you know that even though we are physically isolated this Pride Month, you are part of a large, welcoming, loving community.