By Jess Gardner
This June, I wanted to highlight the important role of public relations in advocacy work, specifically for LGBTQ+ advocacy. Our Instagram featured four different LGBTQ+ organizations that help to empower queer people at the local, state, and national levels; one of those organizations was the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC is an international nonprofit focused on advocating for the LGBTQ+ community through improving national anti-discrimination policy, increasing public education about queer issues, and encouraging voter participation. As a part of their mission statement, the HRC “envisions a world where every member of the LGBTQ+ family has the freedom to live their truth without fear, and with equality under the law.”
Knowing all that the HRC does for the LGBTQ+ community through citizen empowerment and political action, I was excited to interview Paul Richards, Membership Outreach co-chair for the Greater Philadelphia branch of the HRC, last week. Paul first started working with the HRC as an intern when he was a junior in college.
“I really wanted my junior summer internship to be working for a nonprofit organization in DC doing something that I cared about, so I found the HRC and was lucky enough to get hired by them.” Paul stated.
When the internship ended, Paul spent a few years working on his career in higher education communications, and then joined the HRC again as a volunteer for the HRC’s Greater Philadelphia Steering Committee. A steering committee is a committee within an organization that decides what the organization prioritizes in its course of operations, “steering” the organization in the right direction. Paul’s role in the steering committee evolved into his current position as Membership Outreach co-chair. As a co-chair, Paul focuses on event planning and attending Pride events as a representative of the HRC. At events where Paul represents HRC, he invites people to support the HRC through making “small dollar” donations and recruits people as volunteers. Along with growing the organization’s network, Paul is also educating people about what the HRC does to support LGBTQ+ rights.
Locally, the HRC is doing a lot to make sure that LGBTQ+ people have rights and resources. One of the most important things the HRC does is mobilize pro-equality voters.
“The people that we meet throughout the year and at events who go to our website and indicate that they’re interested, those are people that the HRC then tries to activate during important election cycles.” Paul stated.
Engaging their network during election seasons so that pro-equality policy prevails is a key aspect of what the HRC is doing at the local and state level, especially in places such as Pennsylvania where successful and strategic local campaigning can flip the vote. The HRC Philadelphia branch also works with other nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia in order to reach a wider audience and to support smaller local nonprofits. The HRC website provides an abundance of resources on different LGBTQ+ topics. A key resource of theirs is the Municipal Equality Index, which is a comprehensive index that assesses different municipality policies across the country to see how different places rank in their treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. I decided to look up Newark DE in the 2021 Municipality Equality Index, and I was surprised to find that our town scored 61 out of 100, which is below the average national score of 67. Check out the HRC Municipality Index if you’re curious to see how your hometown compares to Newark.
Probably one of the most important things I learned from my interview with Paul was the importance of volunteer work not just to support a cause, but also to support yourself at the individual level.
“I find that it’s very meaningful to have involvements outside of your job, like outside of your nine to five, that connect you to the issues that you care the most about and in the issues that impact your specific part of the broader community that we’re all part of.” Paul stated.
Volunteering for a cause that’s important to someone can help them to find their voice and feel empowered. As college students, there are plenty of opportunities for us to develop skills and build our resumes through fulfilling volunteer work. So don’t be afraid to stand up for your cause, whatever it may be. With all that being said, thanks for reading and happy end of pride month!