Thank you for your question.
First, what you have to figure out are the local needs for such a group in your area. Are there resources not being offered where you live? There are many types of GLBT and queer groups.
What type of group do you want to set-up? Is your group a youth group or a peer support group or rather a group dedicated to social gatherings/opportunities or sports? On the other hand, maybe you want to create a group offering professional support and counseling or focused on political or sociocultural causes.
GLBT groups and other non-profit organizations often start by a co-operative partnership or independent group formed in collaboration with community health services, youth services (marginalized youth, youth protection) or with special interests groups or independent school union or councils.
If you are planning to start a structured non-profit group requiring a budget, you will need help. You will have to start by doing research; gathering information, doing analyses and writting letters. Most North American cities, states, provinces and schools have anti-discrimination rules or laws in place, and it is often a good thing to get a copy of these documents and note down the elements that could be useful in justifying the need for a queer group in your area.
You can start researching all the community-based services including alternative medical services/clinics and the local youth services in your area. You may also find a local GLBT university student group that could give you some advice on resources that are available in your community that you may not be aware of.
Formulate an introduction letter in which you describe yourself and what you are trying to accomplish as well as the type of resources you are looking for. This is the best way to access community or government resources.
On the other hand, you mentioned that you are not part of the local education system in your area. The simplest way of starting a group is the non-structured way, e.g. as a social group that can evolve into a peer support group, and even into a larger non-profit program once people are ready to work hard to get revenues and support from local agencies.
For example, putting together a group on social networks like facebook and starting to organize local events monthly is a good first step to take. The first event could be as simple as setting up a gathering at a coffee shop. Once you start having a certain number of people coming to your events on a monthly basis then it would be good to approach a local community centre.
You can then enquire by letter if they are providing you with services that GLBT youth need, such as access to open-minded medical personnel, prevention kits, literature on self-esteem, safe sex, and other GLBT-related issues. If your local community cannot provide you with these resources, there are national centres that can help you get the information and supplies you need for your queer group.
As you do activities with your group, individuals with good leadership qualities will start to join and will probably want to help you run this group.
When you need help within your group, you should definitely ask for it and delegate tasks; everyone is good at doing something, whether it is negotiation with local community centres to have a place for a group discussion, getting sponsorship and filling out subsidiary papers, building a website or finding fun and free activities for your group, editing information pamphlets, proof-reading or even research. Remember that teamwork is the key to success.
Certainly, there will be many mistakes made along the way and there will be adjustments to make. However, all the advice you can get from the other non-profit groups and GLBT centers is great for helping your group get started.
You can search for these on the internet and also research GLBT youth community services all over the United States. You should expect to get a lot of refusals, but don’t get discouraged and continue to pursue your objectives.
Here are some helpful links:
1) Visit our website, read through the teacher and educator sections, study some of the documents they can help you clarify and identify the information you will need and some of the topics that can be used !
2) The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) : This is a great website devoted to setting-up gay-straight alliances; they have many local chapters in the United States.
I hope the above information has been helpful in getting you started. Please don’t hesitate to write again if you need further support or have other questions,
JP, for AlterHeroes