Gilead Sciences recently committed $4.5 million in grants to transgender support and advocacy groups—$2.5 million more than the company had originally planned. Gilead opened the doors to grant seekers in September with the promise of $2 million total in funding to groups that help transgender people.
However, two months and 82 applications later, the Gilead executives overseeing the Gilead TRANScend Community Impact Fund realized that more was needed. And not just money, but business expertise, technical support, training and, in some cases, a starter kit of basics so groups could get off the ground.
So Gilead awarded two separate $1 million umbrella group grants. One is to Destination Tomorrow, a grassroots agency in New York, which will dole out smaller grants to trans-led and trans-focused programs across the country, prioritizing those service areas with the highest rates of HIV infection, said Darwin Thompson, associate director of corporate giving at Gilead.
“We found out as we went through the process that we needed to be able to provide more handholding kind of assistance. The intermediary will be able to provide smaller grants and technical assistance, but also provide grants to help organization exist,” he said, noting the group could give “small grants to build a board of directors or file incorporation papers” to help fledgling organizations get started.
The second umbrella agency to receive $1 million is the Transgender Strategy Center (TSC), a national organization that will serve as a capacity building partner and offer a range of individualized services to smaller grantees. TSC will also serve as a convener for the smaller organizations to come together to share experiences and best practices.
In addition to the two larger organizations, another 13 groups are being funded directly with a total of $2.5 million in grants that range from $90,000 to $500,000. A variety of projects involved in the safety, health and wellness of transgender people will receive funding and include services such as housing for at-risk people, transgender law services and professional development for transgender people.
The initial funding begins in January and is set to run for two years, but Thompson said Gilead will evaluate the success and progress of the program at the end of the first year. It plans to assess the program for new opportunities where it can scale up and determine what, if any, course corrections need to be made, he said.
“When we announced the fund, we said we wanted to do something meaningful and impactful, and the community has responded very positively,” Thompson said, adding that Gilead is proud of the community-led process with involvement from beginning to end.
The idea for the TRANScend fund came out of an advisory board made up of transgender people and leaders of organizations that support transgender people. Gilead’s portfolio of HIV-focused treatments, including meds such as Biktarvy and Truvada, intersects with the needs of the transgender community, a community that's disproportionately impacted by HIV.