Last November, Equality Utah’s Will Carlson resigned from his position as Manager of Public Policy to take a job with the Salt Lake City prosecutor’s office. Immediately, the statewide gay and transgender rights organization began the search for a fourth staff person, just as it had done earlier in May when then-Executive Director Mike Thompson resigned to accept a job offer in California.
The person they found was Tika Beard. On Feb. 1 she moved into Equality Utah’s offices on 175 W. 200 South to serve as its Development Manager, a position new to the group but which Beard noted has become necessary as Equality Utah continues to grow and to take its work in securing full political equality for gay and transgender citizens across the state.
“People invest in things they believe in and connect to,” she said. “Part of [doing that] is telling the story and the other part is being a responsible shepherd for the money you receive.”
Beard moved to Utah several years ago to begin a geriatric daycare center for senior citizens medically classified as “frail elderly” — that is, seniors whose physical or mental health does not allow them to live independently.
“I came here without knowing anyone. I don’t ski and I’m not LDS,” she said. “It was really a foreign country. You flew over [Utah] to get where you were going.” Soon enough, however, Beard said she found that the “flyover” state had drawn her in permanently when she began the Cancer Wellness House in 1997.
Although her passion lies mainly in helping people with cancer and in the field of long term healthcare, Beard said that she couldn’t pass up the chance to work with Equality Utah when she read their job posting for a development director. For that matter, neither could the friend from the State Democratic Party who brought the posting to Beard’s attention while declaring, “This job was written for you and you were written for it!”
That seemed to have been the case. As the Cancer Wellness House’s executive director and the Utah Democratic Party’s development director (a position which she has just vacated), she had learned quite a lot about raising money, event planning and grant writing.
“I had a lot of admiration for people who asked for money and created fundraising strategies,” she said.
After thinking the job over for a few days, Beard submitted an application.
“They were fortunate there were a lot of talented people who wanted to work here,” she said of the interview process. “I feel really grateful to have been selected.”
Beard is grateful, she said, because she thinks that Equality Utah is doing vital work in furthering its goal of creating a fair and just Utah for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
“It’s not any more important [than advocacy for cancer patience], but when you’re looking to do something meaningful I can’t imagine a [better] organization. If you want to work with equal rights, Equality Utah is what it’s about.”
And telling all Utahns what the organization is about is how Beard sees her new job.
“It’s so interesting to me because people say, ‘I could never do that [be a development director],’ and I don’t think that development is about asking for money,” she said. “I think it’s about sharing with people what your mission and philosophy and goals are and inviting them to participate in some way,” whether that participation lies in making donations, volunteering time, or supporting the organization in other ways.
This support is will certainly be needed, Beard added, as Equality Utah continues to expand. Along with such annual fundraising events as its Allies Dinner and Jazz Brunch, the group, she said “wants to grow some.” On March 12, for example, it will host Out for Equality at Club Jam, to give the “21-35 age group” an opportunity to learn what the organization does. Beard also said she hopes to encourage people to host house parties where they can learn more about the group and the municipal nondiscrimination legislation it is working on passing, especially in areas outside of Northern Utah.
“That’s the problem,” she said. “It’s much easier to promote Equality Utah in large metropolitan areas but the LGBT community and its needs need to be represented throughout the state,” especially in rural counties, where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies often need the most help.
And other thing workin with foundations and corps that provide grants for specific projects b/c of scope and content and services and programs and efforts that EU doing “we have opp for ppl to contrib. in lots of diff ways” so fundraising events ad house parties to grow and educate, out for equality, grand writing and fundraising all strategies
Ultimately, Beard thinks that all fair minded people have “something to offer” Equality Utah.
“If the only people who care about cancer are people who have the disease we’re never going to resolve the issue,” she explained. “I feel the same way about equal rights for the LGBT community and others. If everyone is not engaged in doing what is right for a fair and just Utah, we’re never going to make the inroads that we need.”