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Rising Stars: Meet Paul Marengo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paul Marengo. 

Hi Paul, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
The BHT Foundation (Formerly Brother, Help Thyself) is an all-volunteer non-profit foundation that raises funds and supports our most vulnerable grassroots nonprofits in the DMV region. Brother, Help Thyself was founded in 1978 by four gay motorcycle clubs and is one of the first organizations in the United States to provide funding for LGBTQ/SGL health, cultural, and social services. The first fund was driven by The Capital Area Board of Leather and Levi Motorcycle Clubs who raised $4,518. Brother, Help Thyself was formed to award that grant to the Gay Men’s VD Clinic which was having financial difficulties at that time. Not only did this grant make it possible for the clinic to continue to provide health services, but also made it possible for it to separate from the Free Clinic. This separation led to the creation of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which expanded its services to the lesbian community at that time.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Fundraising in Washington, DC has always been very competitive due to the sheer number of nonprofits in the region.  COVID has made that competition even more intense as organizations are looking for funding just to stay alive. Finding donors and sponsors has been very difficult, so we started to look at other ways on how we can support the grassroots community. So rather than just sit back and raise our hands in defeat, we started to look at how we can educate our most vulnerable organizations on important topics in fundraising as well as utilize our communication channels to provide tips, resources, and promote those grassroots organizations.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
The BHT Foundation is a 40+ year old organization that has provided grants to quite a number of nonprofits in our region.  We have continued that work as well as found many ways to be impactful. As Board President, my responsibilities are first to the organizations we support and second to the maintenance of our organization. As Board President, I am making sure we are reaching those organizations who need our support the most and might not have access to needed funding.  At the same time, I am making sure that our own organization runs smoothly. We are repurposing how we use social media to providing needed information and resources.  Lastly, We will continue to provide educational resources to grants and sponsorships to needy organizations.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
We have re-evaluated how we operate as well as how we are impactful. We create a summer workshop series to help educate the community on various topics such as fundraising, media management, website development, etc.  In the fall we created another workshop series focusing on corporate sponsorships, how to become a nonprofit as well as a workshop on fiscal sponsors. What we learn is that beyond giving grants, we can be more helpful by providing other resources to our community.

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