In the long run, however, it's asking a lot of these newcomers to resurrect an organization that has ground up so many well-meaning (and fiscally literate) individuals before them. Pride "is at a point where it needs a massive restructuring that [not all] the board members who are left are in favor of doing," departed board member Hardwick says. Consensus can be a bitch.

While Pride grapples with a system that lends itself to a glacial pace and empowers its most fractious members, another major city festival has created a remarkably efficient organizational structure. When ambling down Folsom Street and presented with the odd spanking, flogging, or perhaps even a gentleman ejaculating out of a second-story window onto the crowd below, your first thought probably isn't, "Now there's a well-run nonprofit." But it should be. Folsom Street Events is run tighter than a size-L pair of chaps on a XXL derriere. One intriguing indicator of the esteem in which the city holds Folsom is that the Department of the Environment tapped the leather festival to pen the official city best practices guide on large-event recycling. It's safe to say this is an "only in San Francisco" circumstance.

Folsom does not feature an "activist board," but is instead a "working board." That is, its members actually plan out and undertake every year's events — which include the Folsom Street and Up Your Alley fairs — and do not hire paid contractors as Pride does. Rather than drawing from the activist community, the Folsom board features IT workers, techies, nurses, lawyers, teachers, and nonprofit professionals. Not only are the board members able to do math, the system they operate in doesn't allow the numbers to multiply out of control. Each member oversees a certain aspect of the festival — recycling, security, volunteer coordination, etc. — and so must regularly comb through line-item budgets. What's more, the whole board goes through the budget, item by item, and discrepancies must be explained to the group by the board member overseeing that area. This provides "face-to-face accountability," in the words of president Jacob Richards.

Pride’s interim executive director, Brendan Behan, says obituaries for the organization are premature.
Jean-Philippe Dobrin
Pride’s interim executive director, Brendan Behan, says obituaries for the organization are premature.
Mikayla Connell counts her years 
atop Pride’s board as one of her life’s great failures.
Jean-Philippe Dobrin
Mikayla Connell counts her years atop Pride’s board as one of her life’s great failures.

Folsom also boasts stability and an orderliness Pride can only wish for. That's largely because of the ingenious system of "board associates." These are, essentially, junior board members. Last year, for example, event security was planned by two board members and one associate; recycling was handled by one board member and two associates. A year as an associate is a prerequisite for board membership — and serves as an efficient screening process and training program. As board members leave or are termed out, the organization promotes from within, anointing people who have already proven their competence.

"Generally, things happen like clockwork around here," Folsom executive director Demetri Moshoyannis says. "You have to create the infrastructure to operate successfully every year. But you also need the people to execute that vision." His efficient system — and the low overhead costs associated with a nearly-all-volunteer organization — has turned Folsom into a leather-clad moneymaking monster. Last year it donated $326,000 to other nonprofits, as compared with Pride's $132,000 disbursement. Over the last five years, Folsom has given between $301,000 and $350,000 to charity. Pride's donations in recent years ranged between $180,000 and $220,000. Folsom attracts up to 400,000 people — around a third of Pride's foot traffic — and operates on a little more than half Pride's budget.

Money generated for the community is not the ideal way to evaluate an event's worth — but it is something government officials can understand. And they do notice. "Folsom is a very well-run event and the foundation gives away a lot of money," Wiener says. "I think the more well-run organizations like that are generating investments into the community, the better off we're going to be."


When Supervisors Wiener and Campos propose wresting Pride away from its overseers or folding it into another organization, they're careful to note that the transition "must be a smooth one." Good luck with that. Any such talk is superficial at this point, as evidenced by the fact that the supes didn't even know whether the term "San Francisco Pride" is trademarked. The folks at Pride did.

In fact, the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration Committee, Inc., holds a number of trademarks, including "San Francisco Pride," "SF Pride,"and "Pride Celebration." Brooke Oliver, Pride's outside counsel, said an event called, say, Pride San Francisco would be "too similar." If the staff at Pride is reticent to give up the ball, Wiener and Campos' hypothetical organization may have a difficult time finding a name for future festivals. "It's an interesting suggestion of theirs," says Oliver of the supervisors. "But they're bound by the law just as anybody else is."

So, it turns out you can fight City Hall. But municipal government is not without resources of its own. Both supervisors noted that it is within the realm of possibility that the permits for the Pride parade and festival could simply be granted to someone new. This is not unprecedented — in the late 1990s, the mayor's office, displeased with the group that had traditionally run the annual Juneteenth celebration, ensured the permits went to a group of young African-American professionals called the Blacklist. Pride also receives $58,400 from the city's Grants for the Arts program. If another group applied for that money, director Kary Schulman says she and her staff would have to evaluate who was best able to carry out the event. Dueling applications are not unheard of — she notes that this happened with Juneteenth and for this year's Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative celebration. In both instances, the rival groups opted to work together.

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16 comments
Si Se Puede Deportar
Si Se Puede Deportar

Hilarious if it weren't for the fact that the taxpayers will be ponying up to keep the inept and corrupt "organization" going "for the community". Perhaps public floggings of prominent public figures could be auctioned off to raise funds? After all SF is known for out in the open BDSM.

Thom Lynch
Thom Lynch

All of this is so sad and at one time unavoidable. Many people met with the board before they hired Amy and suggested a major overall of the board was required and that the membership structure should be revisited. Spending had to be reduced, having 26 stages to place everyone is ludicrous. This was widely known by non-profit exports who knew the LGBT groups in town and their problems too. But pride stood out as one of the worst and didn't listen to anyone until it just too late.

Dp1965nj
Dp1965nj

HA HA! In Pride We Trust

Jward
Jward

i dunno. i have little faith, and there's more to be done than one woman/man can do alone. merging with another organization = get a clean slate. if this organization tried to do more than give a short parade and flaunt corporate sponsors, cocks and boobs, then maybe i'd be more enthusiastic. where is the contribution to humanitarian causes? what about us gay families with kids? what about poz people? sure, let's party and have a parade. but let's also do some GOOD for the community rather than just wreak havoc.

Sanfranguns
Sanfranguns

OK, so Marc has obviously never been to a pride celebration. Anyone with a real comment?

Sanfranguns
Sanfranguns

Can we please stop calling this an Economy issue? Do you know that people have given MORE money since the country's fiscal crisis started. I work for a non-profit and yeah, its maybe harder to find money - but there's still money to be had. Pride's mis-management and derelict board is what caused all this. Nothing more

Marc
Marc

San Franciscans, especially LGBTQ ones, don't deserve this celebration. You've done nothing to be prideful of for at least the past seven years. It's become a reason to drink and drug and nothing more and it is quite clear you don't have a clue how to bring in money for anything except personal coffers. And don't even get me started on sponsorship by companies such as Clear Channel. Shame on you.

dariamilan
dariamilan

what the article fails to include is that Amy Andre did have financial training in the MBA for Berkeley that she got after the Point Foundation paid for it. Ms. Andre is excellent at taking money from others but seems woefully lacking in paying it forward even when she is getting a paycheck to do just that. The fact that board members are able to take responsibility but she just brushes it off as a "learning experience" is truly sad. She withheld info from the board and the public and has never taken responsibility for it. All after getting her MBA paid for with the promise to serve her community.

thixotropic
thixotropic

My first impulse was "Government money?!? No way in hell!" But the city does get tax revenue from it, and Pride has the benefit, in lean times, of reliably putting of plenty of money in the hands of local merchants. A million people with an above average income spending it is worth 160K in debt.

But fiscal and organisational changes are paramount. Those of the current crew responsible should be held accountable, and competent people must be engaged to replace them.

garrett
garrett

We are going thur a bad time folks, things are shutting down, stores are closing and people are losing homes. Non-profits are having to cut back, less money nowadays. If Folsom is doing well change the model to them. As for getting public money, Why.

MissMimsey
MissMimsey

Lord hep me Jesus.

David Campos says you have to fish or cut bait.

The dam ting MUST be a total mess.

MPetrelis
MPetrelis

kudos to joe eskenazi for a comprehensive, fair and balanced look at the mess known as SF Pride. he did a fabulous job of giving some of the tortured history of the board and most recent executive director, and also acknowledging the extensive reporting of the bay area reporter.

i have one big question after reading joe's piece, and i say this as someone who avoids the pride parade and festival at civic center: what is the gay political point of the damn parade and party on the last sunday of june?

____
____

Pride comes before a fall.

Maria
Maria

Wow. Excellent report (though a dubious title).

What I find especially frustrating is that in the relatively close-knit core of gay people who've lived in the city for decades and know all the players and have a nose for trouble, this narrative has been known for years.

We all winced with every new pronouncement emanating from the Pride org about an ever more edge-case focus on politics and buzz-words and ever dwindling accountability and financial health. Its been going on for years.

In this city, large non-profits are enabled to operate without accountability, to spend tax dollars with out any meaningful tracking of outcomes vs. promises, and in the end we all lose -- except of course the non-profit executives who pocket fat salaries.

Marc
Marc

Really? I'm curious as to what you base your assumption on?

You're quite wrong by the way. I've been a volunteer for SF Pride even but please enlighten me as to why you make that statement.

Sanfranguns
Sanfranguns

If all you've seen at a pride celebration are people getting drunk and high then you've either not been there or you're an idiot. I was being kind

 

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