Today’s young people seem to be more comfortable than ever expressing their diverse gender and sexual identities. In fact, a 2016 study found that 52% of teenagers do not identify as exclusively heterosexual. With all of this progress, though, it is important not to lose sight of how much work is left to do.
LGBTQ youth across the country continue to face deep mental health struggles due shameful feelings about their gender or sexual identities. According to The Trevor Project, the nation’s leading organization in suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth, 1.8 million LGBTQ young people between the ages of 13 and 24 seriously consider suicide every year.
This horrifying number is one reason that on November 17, the PwC Charitable Foundation announced it was awarding a whopping six million dollar grant to the Trevor Project, the largest in Trevor’s history, so the organization could increase its reach and potentially save thousands more lives.
The Trevor Project’s major services involve direct support for youth considering suicide through text, phone, and online chat hotlines. With the PwC grant, the Trevor Project will be able to develop a new technology platform that will facilitate the training of hundreds of thousands of additional volunteers. The new platform will also allow volunteers to communicate with and support one another through this difficult work.
“The size of the grant says a great deal about the size of the problem they’re addressing,” said Yolanda Seals-Coffield, president of the PwC Charitable Foundation. Right now, she said, the Trevor Project reaches about 75,000 kids each year. “That is important and those are important lives, but that is not making a dent in the number of young people in need. So the idea of supercharging their volunteer network and getting ten times the number of people available to pick up these phones and answer these texts 24 hours a day is huge.”
The grant will be a collaborative effort. PwC will help the Trevor Project implement the grant over the next four years.
Additionally, PwC will provide two million dollars worth of pro bono services.
“It’s a great honor for us and the foundation to be connected with this work and to do our small part to help them achieve these great outcomes,” said Seals-Coffield. “They are just an incredibly impressive group of professionals leading this work, and we’re really excited to play a small role.”
PwC consultants and developers will assist the Trevor Project’s technology team with building the new volunteer management system. “They are helping us build this technology from the ground up,” said Muneer Panjwani, the Trevor Project’s head of corporate development. “We’re not adapting it from other technology because our needs are so specific.”
The foundation will also help the Trevor Project improve its cyber security efforts, since the organization compiles a lot of data on young people.
“We take notes and record so we have access to that data for trend spotting, to learn about behaviors and what’s happening in young people’s minds,” explains Panjwani. “But security is not something a lot of people invest in. It was wonderful when we pitched this idea to PwC. They were very excited to help us support building out this project.”
Seals-Coffield said she is continually impressed with the Trevor Project team. “Not only are they committed to their cause, which all nonprofits are, but they are just insanely well-organized and well-run. They have one mission and they do it well.”
Panjwani said the team has no choice but to execute this mission well, and PwC’s grant money and resources will help them continue to do that. “When you look at the mental health ecosystem, and the charities and nonprofits working in it, there are not a lot being funded well,” he said.
“They can’t use the best in class people or technology, so they have to compromise. Our mission is way too important for us to compromise.”