Monday, September 20, 2010

Ex-GLAAD Board Chair Warns
of Org's 'Imminent Demise'

There's such trouble at GLAAD that a former co-chair spilled some beans with me recently, about what is wrong with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's board. Her name is Laurie Perper and I was enthralled with all she had to say, as a real insider, starting with why she believes it would be best for the gays if GLAAD came to an end.

We had a great phone chat two weeks ago, and she spilled quite a few more beans on top of her caustic remarks on her Facebook page.

Before we get to Perper's thoughts, lemme share some fiscal news. Two of GLAAD's biggest donor foundations peaked with their giving years ago. From the gay Arcus Foundation in 2007 GLAAD received $500,000, zero in 2008, for 2009 the amount was $155,000, and so far in 2010 no new money from the foundation.

The progressive Haas Jr Fund, shelled out $300,000 in 2006 to GLAAD, zero in 2007, another $150,000 in 2008, and $100,000 in 2009. Downward trending there, wouldn't you say?

Now, let's look at those FB comments. All caps made by Perper:

Laurie Perper Co-Chairs claim they spoke to departing board members.."it's not about the agency"...not what the rest of us hear! Remaining board members proclaim they are "very" busy. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!!!

    • Dawn Meifert More than 500K in fund-raising has left with board members departure.
      September 1 at 9:29am ·

    • Laurie Perper GLAAD: Top 3 Finance Committee board members resign? Current Board doesn't like talking $$, doesn't like accountability?

      August 31 at 2:26pm

Laurie Perper GLAAD: 2 more board members resign..well 1 to come this week...THE BOARD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE IMMINENT DEMISE OF THIS AGENCY...what will they say?

    • Laurie Perper Does the Board even remember the mission? Do they know how to raise money???? Anyone left who makes their give/get?
      August 29 at 8:24pm ·

    • Dawn Meifert OK, am I losing my mind or did the 12th board member just resign? This makes 11 or12 people in less than 12 months, not counting senior staff that have already left the building.
      Seriously, where/when does all of this end?
      August 31 at 2:01pm ·

Laurie Perper By my count, 9 board members have left since the arrival of Jarrett Barrios, 5 senior team leaders out of 8 have left and the reserve fund is down by 2/3rds. Many other board members have agreed to stay thru Oct. for appearances. This is the better GLAAD that board member Tony Varona speaks of.

During our chat Laurie mentioned that one of the current board co-chairs isn't even a lesbian. She said a number of folks had concerns over a straight person assuming a high leadership position. Not sure if she heard my jaw drop to the floor over this news.

I looked at GLAAD's June release heralding their latest co-chairs, and paid close attention to what was omitted to the short bio on the female co-chair:

Roxanne Jones of Brooklyn, NY, a Vice President for ESPN Publishing was one of the founding editors of ESPN The Magazine [... blah blah blah ...] This year, Jones was named the 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events. Jones attended Penn State University and has an Executive MBA from UCLA.

The bio is cribbed from Jones' profile at the National Association of Black Journalists, where this info, which is missing from GLAAD's announcement, is shared:

Roxanne lives in beautiful Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband Dave-a journalist, and son Malcolm-a Knicks fan.

On the one hand, I think a gay advocacy org whose mission is to increase gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender visibility should fill every leadership position with the wide diversity of us, as part of fulfilling its duties to the community.

But on the other hand, the sexual orientation or gender identity of any GLAAD executive, staffer or board member doesn't really matter all that much, when bigger issues like GLAAD serving no genuine necessary purpose and operating a racket of gala award dinners that doesn't benefit ordinary gays, loom larger.

There's also the matter of no democratic, (democratic with a small d, NOT the political party so may gays are fond of), engagement with the gay community on a regular basis from GLAAD. This org long ago outlived its usefulness and the sooner we dismantle it, the better off we gays will be. GLAAD is a leech upon us. Even their former co-chair says they should retire the group.


Anonymous said...

I must say, the divisiveness and ugly demeanor of this smut-ridden piece is better suited for the likes of Perez Hilton - clearly lacking in his notoriety. It's a sad day when our community, the gay community, takes to cattiness and in fighting as this article clearly denotes. Shame on you for serving as the very vehicle that enables the criticism of the integrity of the community we've spent years attempting to preserve. It is organizations like GLAAD that have (and continue to) serve the advancement of our community. Shame on you who hides behind a blog in his/her basement.

Anonymous said...

I wish that you had added more content and factual information to this blog by interviewing a GLAAD employee or a board member who is still serving GLAAD's mission. Tell both sides of the story. Hasn't funding gone down for all nonprofits due to the recession?

I also think that Laurie Perper should think about the consequences of her posts. She seems like she's seeking revenge on the leadership at GLAAD and her former board members. Is she considering the effect that her posts have on the employees at GLAAD?

By putting the negativity out there, she's making it harder for the organization to fundraise and in turn, putting jobs at risk. If she was on the board, we can assume Laurie is doing fine financially. What about the GLAAD staff that work their asses off every day for $40k a year? How will they survive in this economy if the company comes to an end?

I follow GLAAD on facebook and get daily posts on the progress they're making in the way the gay community is viewed in the media. You are incorrect in saying that the organization has no purpose.

Laurie has lost my respect. And honestly, so has this blogger until both sides of the story are told.

Michael said...

hi anonymous,

why can't you tell us who you are? you sound like a glaadie and should have no problem signing your name to defensive comments like this.

here's a secret for you: glaad is a communication-awareness org and they have the resources to get out their own side of things.

my blog is for MY columns and opinions. this creation of mine is not for glaad propaganda. why don't you call for glaad to, um, set the record straight?

you also might get around to mentioning that jarrett barrios is raking in a robust 6-figures for his services. if you're so worried about those $40K employees, call on jarrett to reduce his pay.

if your arguments are the best to be made about why we need the useless glaad, then the org is in bigger trouble than i thought.

Michael said...

hey all,

my reply above was to anonymous note no. 2. frankly, both anonymous notes have the stench of a glaad campaign.

note no. 1 attempts to slime me with a woefully mythic lie about bloggers and basement.

such commentary from a glaadie, when i know the org took in $80,000 to empower bloggers, show just how unconnected glaad is to the community beyond its tight circle of diminishing donors and supporters.

my criticism ain't gonna stop!

Anonymous said...

As a former GLAAD employee, I can give you a quick, additional perspective. The actual work of GLAAD staff is incredibly detached from the board, and it sounds like Laurie likes to believe the board has much more of an impact on the actual work of GLAAD than it does. The employees of GLAAD aren't worried about egos and politics, like Laurie clearly is, and do a commendable job on behalf of the LGBT community it works for. All of Laurie's comments are board-related, not staff-related... and the STAFF is who does the work.

Not to mention, GLAAD has been facing financial difficulties for years... wasn't Laurie the board chair during these times? Does she take no responsibility? Not to mention, it is the board who hired Jarrett, not the staff. I think her disregard for the staff's hard work, and her undermining the staff's credibility by speaking out in an UN-productive manner, is really unfortunate.

Michael said...

hello anonymous glaadie no. 3,

nice of you to comment here, but really, it would be better if you all would start signing your real names to the comments. very curious to learn why you all aren't willing to state your names.

Anonymous said...

What about Barrios salary?

I think he had an initial agreement for $240,000 for 3 months and the reporting window, then it was supposed to go to $440,000.

Is this part of the reason the Board is escaping?

Anonymous said...

Michael, I am not surprised that GLAAD staffers, past and present, would prefer to stay anonymous. If I were in their shoes I'd do the same, especially since this Perper person comes across in these Facebook posts as reckless, classless, and unbelievably angry. It is hard to believe that she was the board co-chair. Don't you need good judgment to lead a board? She was the leader of the organization and then turns around and trashes it on Facebook. That's not the temperament of board chair. I suggest that the GLAAD board be more careful in selecting its leaders. I bet there is more than meets the eye here with her. Did you ask her under what conditions she left her position and whether the departure was involuntary? There's got to be more of a backstory here.

I think GLAAD does good work and that they traded up to the ESPN exec. If Perper comes across as so nasty, bitter and irrational on Facebook, I'm not surprised that she left the organization in bad shape. Wonder if she realizes how pathetic she looks by trashing the organization she helped lead. Doesn't she bear any responsibility?

Anonymous said...

Michael, thanks for posting my comment. I'm Anonymous 7:04 pm above. One additional thought: Perper seems like a smart and capable woman and we should be grateful that she served the movement, so it's a pity she didn't stay with GLAAD and improve it. I'm curious as to why she thought trashing it so negatively on FB and blogs is productive. I know you differ, but the organization is an important one for the movement. Just my opinion, of course. This is an interesting and strange story.

Perper said...

I am angry, but bitter..not really. I took responsibility as co-chair, raising large dollars for the organization and holding the leadership accountable for the spending that was going on. The staff does do the work. And they work hard. And the board members work hard to raise money so that they can continue to get paid to do that work.

I voted against Jarrett Barrios. And continue to believe he was the wrong choice for so many reasons. Many talented people have left the staff and board because they agree!

I am watching an organization I loved fall apart after 20 years of supporting it financially and with my time. So I am angry. My strongly worded posts are to raise awareness.

PS. Staffer- You are naive if you think the board doesn't work hard too!

Perper said...

PS. Here is the backstory. As I said before, I voted against Jarrett at the Board meeting. I did not think it appropriate that his new boss (which would have been me), not support him. So I stepped down so that others could provide him with the positive guidance needed. Interestingly, the co-chairs who took over have both stepped down as well. Along with 90% of the executive committee. Finally, when I left glaad it was financially sound. It has been sitting by and watching the deterioration since I left that has devastated me..and yes, made me angry! (and feel free to contact any of the senior staff who left as to the quality of my leadership).

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, I don't think my second comment on this post went through so am trying again. If you only allow one comment per post, then I understand. I initially posted as anonymous timestamped at 7:04. What I wanted to add was that although Perper's Facebook posts come across, in my opinion at least, as nasty, angry, extremely negative, etc., she must be a smart, capable, generous person to have been appointed to the chair role in the first place. How sad it is for someone as talented as she to not stay and improve the organization but instead to resort to Facebook, of all things, to try to take it down, so soon after she left it. I trust that she thinks she is doing the movement a favor and don't begrudge her that, but her approach seems unfair and counterproductive to me. Anyway, thanks for the interesting post + thread. Been thinking about the movement's direction for some time, and your post provoked some more and different thinking.

Michael said...

oy, another anonymous glaadie, pushing the idea that glaad can be improved. sorry to let you in on this secret, but the org is beyond improving or saving. just saying the org is an important one for the movement, w/o any proof, doesn't win arguments.

laurie perper should be saluted for speaking her mind, and putting her name to her comments, as she did on her FB page.

that is a lot much than i can say for the anonymous folks posting messages here.

Anonymous said...

The story isn't about Laurie - she left for her stated reasons. I am curious about the senior staff leaving. Barrios as president must have wanted to implement his team, but from what I can see, I don't know what he thinks his team is doing. What is his vision for glaad? I want to know why the Board hired him? What did they see? What did they want to see? Seems to me that they have hired a cardboard cutout of a president who is floundering.

I don't blame the anonymous posters from glaad. Barrios has scared the bejesus out of the staff who are left. He has sent more memos internally telling staffers what they CAN'T do than what they should be doing.

Something happened at the last board meeting. Why did so many senior board members leave so quickly? They did for a reason and I would like to know it. Who are some of these newer board members? No heavy hitters there!

I would not disagree that glaad has an identity crisis. Some have suggested that it should disband, others that it should be folded in to HRC as its media arm. I just hope that these discussions can take place with a president of glaad who is there to further glaad, not himself. This guy is a lightweight, a photo op with a tendency to shoot off his mouth unless his handlers tame him before he enters the ring.

Glaad deserves to have a real president who can articulate its relevancy - if any. If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Barrios is plucking his unstrung guitar while GLAAD hits the greasy tubes. Any shred of relevancy glaad may have deserves a better president. A real president.

Dawn Meifert said...

Hi Michael,
As a friend of Laurie's I can honestly say her comments come from a place of passion. We all feel that the vital programmatic work of glaad is very important to the community. Laurie is not attacking glaad the org, she is criticizing the leadership.
I was one of many board members that left. The massive walkout of senior staff and capable (meeting one's give/get)board members, it should not be all that hard for people to figure this out. The loss of history of the org and the movement is astounding in the departure of several staff members. An entire library of knowledge has left the building that is now on fire and no one seems to be calling the brave men of the NYFD.
Laurie wanted to jump start a conversation, to shine a light on the issue. I think she has been successful in that endeavor while taking many, MANY arrows from those on the sidelines.

Anonymous said...

Dawn, on your Facebook account one of your friends posted something that suggested that you left the board to apply to be Glaad's prez. Is that true? If so, doesn't your comment here stink of sour grapes? Wouldn't you have left before the new prez was hired?

In-fighting like this is what keeps the LGBT leadership in a tangle. I for one am glad that Glaad is changing. It wasn't as effective as it should have been before the recent leadership changes. Maybe now it will be sharper and edgier. Time will tell. Is it really on fire? You and the other recently departed director keep flamethrowing but seems like the organization is doing fine without you.

Dawn said...

I did...and I stayed on in support of the new ED. Until I resigned along with many others. Does that detract from the facts? Is your name Tony Varona, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Dawn, no. I'm not Tony Verona. Just someone who wants Glaad to do well and who wants to stay anonymous. I think you and Laurie want the best for Glaad too, I just question your approach but youre entitled to it. Thanks for the clarification. Yes that does make a difference that you resigned after returning to the board.

LookingBeyond said...

Anon suggests that glaad is doing just fine without Laurie or Dawn? I guess it depends upon your definition of doing fine. Again, neither Laurie nor Dawn are the story here - the president Barrios is.

Money is drying up under this guy. Not only is foundation money turning its back, but so is an increasing number of glaad's sustaining members. Come on glaad, how many belong to your Alliance Circle. How many people across the US believe in what glaad is doing so that they support it with a yearly commitment of 5K? 4K 3K?

The community determines the relevancy of glaad. If there is dwindling LGBT support, I would suggest that glaad is NOT doing fine. Glaad is over 20 years old - what are the numbers of its financially-supportive members? Break it down by the numbers.

Barrios was and is still a politician. He will take all the credit (for what?) and none of the blame. He only knows to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. We won't know the damage he is wreaking on glaad until it's all over - either for him or for glaad. His hand-picked board members need to wake up; they have a responsibility to the community, not to saving face by keeping Barrios in office.

Dawn said...

The intentional misspelling of the last name is a classic...
SO, thanks LB for jumping in and keeping the conversation on topic. Here's the deal from my perspective.
Supporters of Barrios have stated MANY times in numerous locations that the org is doing great, better than ever. IF that is true, great.
However, if that statement is a distortion of what is really going on,then the success/failure of the org rests SQUARELY on the shoulders of those in power as of the last board meeting in San Fran.
The passage of time will fully tell this tale. We shall all see if Laurie's "ringing of the bell" was indeed valid. Me? I like to bet on the pony's every once in a while, my money is on the mare.

Anonymous said...

I get why Michael and others would prefer that anon posters here use our real names, but those of us who are current and former staff members just can't do that. As several Anonymous posters have already said, the people who pay the biggest price for unfair and reckless attacks on Glaad and its leadership is THE STAFF. While directors can have their little egotistical pissing contests and sling mud after they leave, it is the STAFF that picks up the pieces. It is the STAFF who have our jobs, homes, health insurance and futures on the line. Doesn't mean that what disgruntled departed directors say does not have some value. Of course they are right to say that the remaining board members and Barrios have to be on their toes. They are right that the focus needs to be on recovering from the fund raising downturn that affected all nonprofit agencies. That's all different than proclaiming and cheering on the "imminent demise" of Glaad on Facebook and blogs. Doing that is counterproductive and destructive and catty. They think its the right thing to do. It clearly comes from a place of passion. They are entitled to say whatever they want. But that does not make it responsible and right. It is easy to throw molotov cocktails when you're not in charge of putting out the flames. Glaad is far from perfect and needs big improvement but it is also far from being on it's last legs. It does good work and will continue to get a lot of support from many old and new donors.

Perper said...

Dear bitter, self-righteous staffer,
You clearly have no idea what it means to be a board member. It means raising money so you get paid. It means donating money so you get paid. It means guiding senior leadership (which clearly you are not!) to effective programmatic work. It means being a volunteer in a thankless job (obviously you are ungrateful) and worrying about keeping foundation and corporate money informed and happy. I appreciate all you do in fighting defamation on a day to day basis and I appreciate your passion. Maybe you could step back and see the bigger picture. You are not glaad. glaad is so much bigger. And it currently has a disease destroying it from within. Those of us who have given our heart and soul in ways which you clearly DON'T appreciate (perhaps you were in elementary school when we started fighting for your rights!), are left feeling sick watching what the leadership is doing to this agency!
You throw around toxic words like disgruntled, entitled and molotov cocktails. Grow up. This is a discussion for adult who can see the complexity of today's world and not just one's own sense of grand contribution.

Anonymous said...

I, a GLAAD supporter, disagree with some of Laurie Perper’s statements and have said so in this thread. But it is clear to me that Laurie means well and has very good intentions. She obviously thinks she is trying to save an important movement organization in which she’s invested dearly. That her message is delivered with such heat does not mean that it should be ignored. I disagree with her message and its conclusions but I still appreciate what she has done for our movement and I appreciate her sacrifices. We have organizations like GLAAD to worry passionately about and to disagree over because of generous donors and leaders like Laurie. Anger and all, disagreement and all, Laurie deserves the community’s gratitude. We have LGBT movement organizations because of devoted board members AND staff AND donors AND members. Earnest disagreement focused on making GLAAD better is OK. We’re all on the same side here.

Michael said...

hello you, a glaad supporter:

we are not all on the same side and stop peddling such nonsense.

there are those like you who think glaad serves some purpose other than a networking, social climbing vehicle for gay professionals. oh, and to keep a few gay democrats like jarrett barrios off the unemployment rolls.

many in the community don't support glaad, its mindless award ceremonies and galas, and the drain it makes on us.

no, the issue is not to make glaad better, at least for me. i want it put out of business. and if the best the org can muster at this point are endless anonymous comments on this blog, it is another sign of how lame glaad and its supporters are.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I understand. I agree that anon posts don’t have much value and are easy to dismiss so this will be my last. My only point was that there is a place for leaders like Laurie Perper in the movement. I posted previously that her Facebook rants, so soon after being co-chair of the GLAAD board, may come across as too angry, ill-tempered, maybe even as reckless and bad judgment on her part. While I wouldn’t have taken her approach if I were in her shoes, I do now think that she provides an important service to the movement and to GLAAD in being such a vocal critic. In other words, I’ve changed my mind somewhat. Your post and the discussion in the comments (even anon ones) made me realize that although I don’t think she’s right on all counts and I question her tone, I value Laurie’s vigilance and passion. Just like I value the role you play in being an outspoken critic of movement leaders and organizations. This is why I read your blog. Come to think of it, perhaps Laurie should think about blogging herself. What she says is important. I don’t agree, but it’s important and deserves an audience. That’s all from me. Won’t post again.

Dawn said...


I would ask you to stop and think for just a moment. Why would individuals such as Laurie and myself be willing to come forward, risk our personal brand and ring a bell that no one wants rung? Many people, including the former Executive Committee and former co-chairs have been behind the scenes trying to rectify this situation.
Barrios fought it on various levels that I cannot go into and won over the new Board this past summer.
What could possibly be the reason for this internal struggle?
To save the organization, hence YOUR JOBS!! The downturn here is much more than just the slowing economy, that’s why people are screaming and yelling.
The responsible thing would be for all to look at the message and not shoot the messenger! This is like the Bush Administration....if you are against the war you are not patriotic. If you do not agree with Barrios and the direction he has taken the agency you are against the org and the staff. Not true. The critique offered here is not “unfair and reckless”……it’s based on fact. Show me the successful programmatic work that Barrios has led. Show me the successful foundation work that he has led. Show me results! I firmly believe that if you do the job well, the support will follow. Where is it?

Given the trajectory of the org you will be out of a job if the current modus operandi continues! Do you not get that?

Michael- I have to say here that this is the overriding problem with glaad and their own messaging. Glaad does AMAZING programmatic work on the ground interfacing with youth in the young adult media program. Glaad offers media and spokesperson training for FREE. Glaad provides story ideas to various series and has on set script consultants to ensure accurate representation. THIS is what should be making the news, not Barrios. THIS is why some of us are so passionate about the MISSION of the org....which has been essentially lost in translation.

Anonymous said...


You have convinced me that instead of blaming the messengers we need to focus on your message and facts. So OK. I retract my initial comment here in its entirety. I am the 8th poster above, stamped 7:04 pm, starting “Michael I am not surprised...”. I take back every word. Why? Because Laurie’s FB posts in Michael’s blog entry at first struck me as reckless, classless, irrational and an exercise of bad judgment and temperament, etc., since they seemed in my initial opinion to be an effort to cripple GLAAD. I wondered whether there was a backstory to her anger against GLAAD’s leadership. Having now read your longer and more thoughtful posts here, I see that Laurie’s and your goal is the exact opposite. My opinion has done a 180. I still think you have been taking the wrong approach and have reached wrong conclusions, but I can see now that you are speaking out to help and not hurt GLAAD.

The two of you deserve the benefit of the doubt. It is obvious that you both have done and given an enormous amount for and to GLAAD and the movement. You have indeed stuck your necks out and put your “personal brands” on the line. Laurie is right that LGBT leadership and activism can be thankless and exhausting. That you, Dawn, went so far (as noted above) as to volunteer to lead the org says lots about your dedication to it and the movement and adds luster to your “brand” in my book. Few would have the guts to step up to the plate. Donors like me appreciate you for that. This is why your voices carry great weight.

You are also right that Barrios and the GLAAD board now have two divergent paths ahead. One direction leads to organizational success through stronger fundraising, management, etc. The other leads to oblivion. I hope the board and Barrios take your alarm bells to heart. The tricky thing is that there is a balance between ringing the warning bell and pushing for the fulfillment of a dark prophecy. Because of your strong brands, people trust you and Laurie. If you critique GLAAD leadership with such unfocused force and fire that you end up undermining its ability to fundraise and pursue the mission, then you would have contributed to and not just warned against its demise. I hope you understand that very real danger and take it to heart. It is pretty obvious to me that you want GLAAD on the path to success. I am grateful to you and Laurie for all you have done for it and for all of us.

Anonymous said...

I am Anon 8:46 am, the last poster above. For whatever it is worth, another point to make in Laurie’s and Dawn’s defense, and the other reason I changed my opinion about their outspokenness and withdrew my initial critical post is this: What strong organizations have in common is outspoken critics. Fair and accurate criticism, even if it is sometimes caustic and angry, keeps movement organizations on mission and on track. Vigilance is good. Laurie’s and Dawn’s outspokenness, as long as it is fair and accurate, is not irrational, not reckless. It is good judgment, not bad judgment, to speak out when one thinks that an important institution is adrift. I’m not yet convinced that GLAAD is badly adrift instead of just evolving, but I appreciate Laurie and Dawn for caring enough to share their concerns and warnings.

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