Dysfunction vs. Community: Can we reach Win-Win? by Catherine D. Willis S ystems theory was "in" in the early `80s when I was working on my master's degree, and I find myself returning to that organizing model whenever I contemplate the GLBTQ community and the nonprofit entities that purport to serve it. "Dysfunction" seems to be the operative term, with rotating characters playing the role of The Problem. The Rainbow Regional Community Center, now the LGBT Center, had its turn in that unflattering spotlight in 2006. Now OutSpokane seems to be the subject of disparaging whispers. The negative attention is not wholly undeserved. The still fledgling nonprofit that shepherds the annual Pride Celebration dug itself into an $8,000 hole in 2008, and has been slow to publicly address the situation and its ultimately sanguine remedy. Confusion breeds conjecture, which often renders a perception of the truth that isn't true at all. OutSpokane's participation numbers for 2008 were the largest ever, estimated at 2,500. The red ink flowed from an ambitious post-festival comedy show that fell far short of fund- Dan Brown, committeeman for the 3rd Legislative District, who called extremely low attendance by his fellow Democrats, in town at the time for their annual statewide convention, "a real disappointment." OutSpokane's board assessed its shortfall and turned full attention to fund-raising in July; optimistic plans, however, did not immediately translate into profitable actions. Unpaid bills created some embarrassing moments for the nonprofit's directors. There were more than a few raised eyebrows within the wider GLBTQ community when OutSpokane was named a recipient of a $5,000 grant from Pride Foundation Inland Northwest. Apparently some wondered if OutSpokane might borrow from that award to pay off outstanding debt. The skeptics need not have fretted. Less than a month after this grant was announced, Nancy Avery, a leader of the Pride Team at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, notified OutSpokane co-chair Christopher Lawrence of a pending $4,000 gift. raising goals. In addition, event organizers had contracted to pay travel expenses for the four performers, unaware that each would be coming from a different city, one from outside of the country. "Our intent was to move Spokane to another level by offering good professional entertainment for our community," explained Wayne Shull, OutSpokane's 2008-2009 secretary. Turnout did not live up to expectations, he and others rued, including board member | January 2009 | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | www.qviewnorthwest.com