When Nina Love, the Board President from the BHT Foundation pops up in our Zoom window, we are greeted with wide eyes, a soft face, and an approachable smile. “I didn’t realize this was a video,” Love says, sweeping their hand a close cropped pompadour that defies gravity on top.
Any shyness characteristic of a virtual meet and greet is quickly overcome. Nina Love’s personality comes to life—equal parts badass and demure.
Love’s story is one of a late bloomer, strength and power, and the freedom of being authentically themselves. “I show up to work queer,” they say, putting two fists in the air, revealing colorful tattoos. Love is beaming. “I go to meetings by myself and they ask me for my opinion,” they tell us. For the 2013 Midatlantic Leather Woman who came out at 28, this is a big deal.
With a background in organizational development and strategic leadership, along with a high-achieving day job, Love’s experience makes them a powerhouse on the Board of Directors. Their gender expression and unique life experiences make them a person with ideas and solutions unlike any other. Leaders like Love are literally changing the face of community building and fundraising for foundations like BHT.
Formerly known as “Brother, Help Thyself,” the BHT Foundation formed in 1978 when four gay motorcycle clubs joined forces to “do something” about gay men’s health issues when no one else would. Since then, the all-volunteer nonprofit has raised and distributed more than $3.5 million to nearly 200 groups in Washington, D.C. and surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia.
Today, the “face of queer culture” has changed, and with it, the needs of LGBTQ communities. In response, the BHT Foundation is reinventing itself after years of being known as for mostly gay, white men.
The new mission, therefore, is to come together under one tent and support the small organizations that may be getting lost among the grab for limited resources.
Love believes BHT has the chance to amplify dollars and make an impact through the lens of diversity. “Women need a seat at the table. Women organizations are underrepresented,” Love laments. “BHT has a responsibility to find them.”
So if you are a woman-run non-profit and your mission is to uplift our communities in whatever way you make your magic, like services, outreach, and technical assistance, BHT helps you get those funding dollars.
“Those are our people,” Love says of organizations that need help getting off of the ground to support underserved and marginalized populations. “We want to know your hopes and dreams for the community and how to realize them.”
Although the traditional grant cycle ends in the fall, BHT has accelerated its process to streamline awards, distributing funds to grantees in October. Applications for this year’s grant cycle are due by August 31, 2020 at 11:50 p.m. EDT.
Love encourages you not to be intimidated by the application process, since BHT is there to help. Grant writing isn’t some mysterious beast, Love reminds us—the key is to tell your story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for one-on-one support or to ask about a grant writing workshop.
BHT is looking for board members and volunteers that represent all gender expressions, ethnicities, and religious beliefs. No experience is required to volunteer, and many of these positions can be done remotely. Visit BHT’s volunteer page to learn more.
Love’s dream is for the BHT Foundation to become truly representative of the people they serve and to put an end to inter-community discrimination. “I wouldn’t feel as if I was contributing if I wasn’t bringing my whole self and integrating who I am as a person,” Love says. And we say, right on!