Love is love, at Independence Hall (Flickr/City of Philadelphia)

The phrase “board of directors” can sound impressive, but also intimidating. 

At local LGBTQ organizations, serving on a nonprofit board can be an enriching way to give back to the community, and bring social prestige. But it can also mean hours of volunteer work in a high stress environment, and sometimes result in being the target of unflattering news coverage or commentary.

Add the expectation that board members donate or raise significant sums of money, and service starts to look out of reach for many. Is it any wonder nonprofits nationally struggle with diversity and inclusion on their boards?

That’s where Philly’s Michael S. Hinson Jr. LGBTQ+ Leadership Pipeline comes in.

The free training program is focused on “increasing the number of LGBTQ people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders serving in board leadership at Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ social impact organizations,” the Office of LGBTQ Affairs describes on the program’s application. The deadline to apply is Tuesday.

Launched in 2018, the program was renamed this year by LGBT Affairs Executive Director Celena Morrison after Hinson, a revered Philadelphia activist and nonprofit leader who died last year. 

Locally, Hinson was such a force that his passing garnered articles not just in the Philadelphia Gay News, but in mainstream media outlets like The Philadelphia Inquirer. Billy Penn did a report memorializing his contributions, too.

The new name suits the pipeline’s goals. Hinson himself expertly navigated local politics and events, never falling out of mainstream favor while still maintaining friendships and connections to LGBTQ people of all backgrounds, incomes, and views. 

While the office has changed names and scope, he was in a de facto sense the city’s first leader of the LGBT Affairs as liaison to then-Mayor John Street. He also founded Colours, the first social service organization in Philadelphia focusing on people of color, along with a slew of other key initiatives and programs across the city’s nonprofit and activist ecosystem.

Before he died in 2022, Hinson led SELF, Inc., a homeless services organization he helped grow into a social services powerhouse. His work was so integral to that organization’s growth they immediately named a new resource center in his honor.

The original impetus for the pipeline was a 2017 report by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PHCR) detailing racism and discrimination in the city’s LGBTQ community. That report specifically cited a “lack of inclusion in the Gayborhood for women, people of color, and transgender persons, and questionable employment practices at social service agencies that serve and employ LGBT persons of color.”

At the time, then-PHCR Executive Director Rue Landau, now an at-large candidate for City Council vying to be Philly’s first out LGBTQ local legislator, said she hoped the report would “bring about systemic change so that all people in the LGBTQ community can feel safe and be free from discrimination.”

Applications are due Feb. 21 and can be submitted online.

Billy Penn is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at or follow at @brokeinphilly