The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice (Astraea) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization that has funneled over $31 million to bolster Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI) political organizations.
Since 2013, Astraea has worked extensively with the U.S. government and was provided funds by the Obama administration to support international LGBTQI political efforts. It has since established itself as a player in international LGBTQI politics by working with governments, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations.
Astraea was founded in 1977 by a group of women in New York City to provide financial support to lesbians and minority women activists in the U.S. Today it has four categories of grants: U.S., International, Intersex, and Global Arts funds. Each fund aims to bolster other organizations and foundations that are “not only able but charged to take radical collective action” to further its racial and gender priorities as well as to fund art produced only by LGBTQI individuals.
In recent years, Astraea has grown to influence local politics in 83 countries around the world. This effort was significantly aided by partnerships with federal agencies during the Obama administration.
In 2013, after President Barack Obama issued a memorandum directing executive agencies to address LGBTQI issues, the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.A.I.D.) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency joined with Astraea and two other foundations to form the LGBT Global Development Partnership. The effort used public and private funding and technology to implement LGBTQI efforts in 14 countries.
In 2014, Astraea coordinated with the State Department to provide funding and community organization capabilities to the gay rights movement in South Korea following the Korean Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Since 2014, Astraea has been cooperating with U.S.A.I.D. to convene “CommsLabs” around the world that “share skills and technologies, and co-create accessible and regionally-relevant advocacy and communications tools that amplify their [activists] narratives of resistance.” It has convened CommsLabs in southern Africa and South America. 
While Astraea claims to “increase transparency” by listing is financial statements and form 990s from 2004 to 2015 on its website, it does not disclose its donors.
The following information has been identified using publicly available documents.
Out of the foundation’s $8,733,447 in revenue in the 2016 fiscal year, $1,037,325 was from government grants, while fundraising events were reported at $134,503. Out of its $7,994,790 in expenses, $1,957,357 were grants given to domestic organizations and governments while $1,618,861 were grants given to foreign organizations, governments, and individuals. The remainder was used primarily for operational expenses and compensation.
The combined money Astraea received from the Arcus foundation with what is listed as government grants equals over 40.2% of its total revenue in the 2016 fiscal year.
Other notable donors to Astraea are:
- The Haas Fund: $125,00 to $225,000 annually since 2010
- Tides Foundation: $5,000 – $6,000 in 2008
- The Crossroads Fund and the Stonewall Community Foundation list Astraea as a grantee on their websites.
- In July 2020 Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, donated $4 million to Astraea.
The founders of Astraea are: Achebe Powell, Stella Alvo, Audrey Barnes, Nancy Dean, Barbara Grant, Joyce Hunter, Roberta Kosse, Cynthia Long, Joan Watts, and Leslie Kanes Weisman.
Katherine Acey was hired in 1989 as Astraea’s first staff member. She later became its executive director. Under Acey’s direction, Astraea formed the Lesbian Writers Fund, International Fund for Sexual Minorities, and the U.S. Movement Building Initiative. The Movement Building Initiative is an Astrea led, Ford Foundation-funded initiative to fund LGBTQI organizations led only by people of color.
The current executive director of Astraea is Jennifer Bob Alotta. Prior to working at Astraea, Alotta was the Board Chair of FIERCE, an LGBTQ organization that focuses on youth of color. She is also a filmmaker and currently serves as producer, director, and post-supervisor to Zeitbyte, LLC, a media company based in New York City. Alotta spoke at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Astraea leadership with reported income on its fiscal year 2016 form 990 include:
- Jennifer Bob Alotta is Astraea’s executive director. (2016 compensation: $169,653)
- Aba Taylor is Astraea’s former deputy director. (2016 compensation: $27,282)
- Clarence Patton is Astraea’s executive director of the Pipeline Project. (2016 compensation: $120,203)
Justice Eisfeld is listed as executive director of Global Advocates for Trans Equality (2016 compensation: $48,144). Eisfeld left GATE in 2015, about the same time that GATE ended six years of being fiscally a sponsored project of Astraea.
Susan Neiman is the group’s chief financial officer. (2016 compensation: $124,347)
Sarah Gunther is the former director of programs (2016 compensation: $100,123). Position now held by Interim Director of Programs Sangeeta Budhiraja.
Gina Taglieri is the former director of development (2016 compensation: $132,753). Position now held by Barbara Jean Davis.
Astraea “fiscally hosts” the International Trans Fund, which is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations. ITF’s mission is vaguely described as an initiative to provide funds for trans-led movements, both nationally and internationally. ITF works similarly to Astraea by funneling grants to other organizations.
The Pipeline Project (Pipeline), a project to get people of color into trans-activism leadership, is an arm of Astraea. The two organizations share the same address and its Executive Director is listed on Astrea’s Form 990. Pipeline similarly receives funds from the Arcus Foundation, but Astraea does not disclose direct funds to Pipeline.
Astraea has partnered with AlQaws’, a Palestinian LGBTQI group attempting to alter social society in Gaza and the West Bank to support LGBTQI people. It has gained notoriety more for opposing the Israeli government, primarily attacking Israel’s efforts to foster LGBTQI inclusion. AlQaws calls the effort “pink washing.”
Representatives of Astraea sit on the board of the National Network of Grantmakers, which is a network of individuals involved in philanthropy who organize to direct funding toward leftist groups.
Katherine Acey, Astraea’s first Executive Director, serves on the Open Society Foundations Human Rights Initiative Board.
Jacob Tobia, a member of the Astraea Foundation, is part of the Trans United Fund Advisory Committee, which “is committed to building the political power of trans and gender expansive communities and our allies to advocate for trans equality.”