Club Q Immediate Action Response Report
1-Month Since the Mass Shooting in Colorado Springs
December 20, 2022
VictimsFirst responded immediately to the Club Q shooting that occurred on November 19-20, 2022, and resulted in 5 murdered victims, 17 shot/wounded, 5 injured, and at least 12 survivors who were not physically injured. With Pulse survivors comprising our board, leadership committee, and our expansive network of mass shooting survivors and victims’ families, we felt a responsibility to immediately protect and assist our LGBT2QIA+ siblings in Colorado Springs who have now experienced what we know all too well.
We are publishing this report one month after the Club Q shooting to provide another layer of transparency to the public. It is our belief that the public should expect this level of transparency from all nonprofit organizations, and we encourage all nonprofits to provide full and continuous transparency.
On November 27, 2022, we hosted a press conference of mass shooting victims who flew in from all over the country to Colorado Springs that exposed the re-victimizing practices of the Colorado Healing Fund, a nonprofit that collected donations after the Boulder mass shooting but gave only a portion of the donations to the victims themselves. Instead, it doubled its Executive Director’s salary and doled out grants to nonprofits all over town. In addition, it also chose to double its administration fee for Club Q donations without giving a clear explanation as to why its administration costs doubled and without revising its current protocol which limited its administration fee to 5%. Other donations collected after the murder of 10 people in Boulder also went to a museum that was in the red.
We immediately engaged with the affected community and listened to concerns through on-the-ground outreach.
A week later, on December 4, 2022, we hosted a second press conference on ZOOM with even more mass shooting families from across the nation to support Good Judy Garage in their decision to bring in the National Compassion Fund to ensure that 100% of what was collected in their GoFundMe would actually get to victims directly and equitably in cash payments.
We have continued to educate the public as well as the victims and survivors on what a Centralized Victims Fund is, how to recognize it, and how to decipher misleading language. For example, the Colorado Healing Fund uses phrases like “support the victims” instead of “directly to victims.” They also claim “100% to victim services” instead of “100% directly to victims.” These phrases have confused the media and the public into thinking that the Colorado Healing Fund will give all that it collects to Club Q victims now that an anonymous supporter has paid for their administration fees. However, 100% directly to victims has not been the Colorado Healing Fund’s model, and they can not legally give directly to victims.
On December 8, 2022, we published an open letter from mass shooting families/victims from across the country to address the misinformation being spread by the Colorado Healing Fund, just as we saw being done in the aftermath of the King Soopers shooting in Boulder on March 22, 2022. We also addressed questions that have arisen surrounding their knowledge of victims' compensation/services, their cultural competencies particularly with the LGBT2QIA+ community, and past harms inflicted upon mass shooting victims. This was sent to news/media throughout Colorado to provide a roadmap to holding the Colorado Healing Fund accountable. You can read this letter here: https://www.victimsfirst.org/post/open-letter-from-mass-shooting-families-survivors-addressing-the-colorado-healing-fund
We have continued to urge Full Transparency from any nonprofit, business/corporation, or other organization collecting funds in the aftermath of the Club Q shooting so the donors have a clear understanding of what is happening with their donations and the victims also understand what is happening with collected after they or their family members were murdered, wounded, injured or present.
Our network of mass shooting families, victims, and advocates has also continued being a watchdog of nonprofits and fundraisers for Club Q victims to ensure that sponsors, donors, and the public have a complete understanding of how to get 100% of their donations directly to Club Q victims in a way that is ethical, equitable, and transparent.
We have also worked to educate nonprofits and the community affected by the Club Q mass shooting on trauma-informed approaches to mass shooting response using our Best Practices. We provided additional advice and insight on fundraising language, mental health grants for long-term needs, and victim/survivor needs.
Emergency and Immediate Assistance
On November 20, 2022, we activated the Club Q Victims Fund on GoFundMe to ensure there was a place where people could donate that ensured 100% would go to victims. Once the Club Q Victims and Survivors Compassion Fund was established, we joined in support of the true, Centralized Victims Fund and shut down our GoFundMe campaign.
After this was done, we began outreach to assist Club Q victims directly. Within days, we provided direct financial assistance to victims and survivors of the mass shooting through our General Victims Fund and also worked to fulfill other needs by coordinating other resources.
As of December 20, 2022, we were able to help Club Q victims/survivors with a total of $26,312.68 of emergency financial assistance to date, as we continue to provide directly financial assistance for immediate needs and help collect funds into the Club Q Victims and Survivors Compassion Fund so victims/survivors have complete control over the financial gifts donated by the public.
Part of our response to the Club Q mass shooting has also included working behind-the-scenes to ensure other resources are available to victims/survivors. Our work has included securing mental health access, connecting victims/survivors to legal resources for understanding compensation programs, and providing home remodeling resources to address accessibility needs. We also helped to pay for the urgent transportation needs of victims/survivors.
While providing direct and immediate assistance to Club Q victims/survivors, we were also informed by the Bread and Roses’ mutual aid network in Denver of a significant need by victims/survivors of the Sol Tribe shooting that occurred on December 27, 2021. These victims/survivors received little to no help from the Colorado Healing Fund or COVA. With the help and leadership of the Bread and Roses, we were able to assist more victims/survivors.
As of December 20, 2022, that has included an additional $14,630.00 to Sol Tribe victims/survivors to pay for basic living expenses, rent, medical bills, and other emergency needs that have not been covered through any other programs or by any other nonprofit over the past year.
For the benefit of victims/survivors, the most critical headway in Colorado has been having the National Compassion Fund invited in by Good Judy Garage to ensure a true, centralized Victims Fund was established that guarantees 100% of all donations will go directly to victims in cash payments so they have privacy and autonomy.
Good Judy Garage has the largest GoFundMe with over $888,000 as of December 19, 2022. They have also collaboratively formed a local, LGBT2QIA+ steering committee who will lead the open, public, fair, and transparent fund distribution process.
Bread and Roses Legal Center has been leading and doing vital on-the-ground mutual aid work with victims/survivors of the Club Q shooting in a manner that is informed, ethical, victims-centered, and culturally competent. They have been working tirelessly to address the immediate needs of Club Q victims/survivors, as well as the ongoing needs of Sol Tribe victims/survivors. Their work is incredibly important and we commend their ongoing efforts.
As a result of our scrutiny of the Colorado Healing Fund, in early December the nonprofit published its 990s (tax forms) on its website for the first time dating back to 2019. While this is a win for transparency, they still have not adequately provided a detailed financial accounting, such as their independent audit from 2021 that would provide a true accounting of how money collected for mass shooting victims from Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Denver/Lakewood (Sol Tribe) was spent. We will continue to advocate for true transparency and the release of their independent audit for 2021.
Current Issues We Would Like to See Resolved for our Club Q Family
Colorado Healing Fund
The Colorado Healing Fund continues its lack of transparency. We urge the Colorado Healing Fund to publicly announce:
100% will go directly to Club Q victims/survivors in cash payments so that victims/survivors can have privacy, dignity, and autonomy in how they choose to spend the public’s generous gift during the most excruciating time of their lives.
If the Colorado Healing Fund will not commit to giving 100% of what they have collected directly to victims/survivors, the public deserves to know how their donations for Club Q victims will be spent BEFORE any money is granted to nonprofits by the Colorado Healing Fund. Which nonprofits will receive donations for Club Q victims/survivors from the Colorado Healing Fund and when are they scheduled to accept these funds?
The name(s) of the sponsor(s) who stepped in to pay the Colorado Healing Fund’s administration costs and the amount that they paid. There is no reason for this to be kept from the public, other than to protect yet another nonprofit from public scrutiny. Mass shooting victims and victims’ funds should not be used as pawns in political games. Nonprofits should provide victims/survivors with 100% of the donations that are being collected for them and should be fully transparent to the public.
A concrete reason why the Colorado Healing Fund tried to double their administration fee for Club Q victims/survivors from 5% to 10%, when their own current/published protocol limited their administration fee to 5% and they claim to be a lean organization with no new expenses. Even though these administration fees have been covered, the public deserves a legitimate reason for why the Colorado Healing Fund did this that is supported by the organization’s financial documentation. To date, their June 2021 Protocol was still not revised and funding has not been secured for the longevity of the organization. This means that the nonprofit will likely continue its predatory history of taking money from victims/survivors to pay for their own operating expenses, including Jordan Finegan’s executive salary.
The Colorado Healing Fund and the Colorado Organization of Victims Assistance (COVA) must completely reform their current practices and processes for victims/survivors of mass casualty crimes or be dismantled. With victims/survivors feeling re-victimized by these organizations time and time again, they are not helping victims/survivors but instead causing harm. This can not be allowed to continue in the state of Colorado.
None of the donations intended for Club Q victims/survivors should be held back by nonprofits for long-term needs or community investments. As we have seen in the past, millions of dollars in grants will come into Colorado to fund mental healthcare and other long-term community projects. Not a penny needs to be taken from the donations for victims to fund these projects, as nonprofits have their own abilities to fundraise for their own programs and projects and do not need to take from the donations being collected for victims/survivors.
Needs The Must Be Addressed By The State Immediately
There are some needs of Club Q victims/survivors that still must be addressed by the state of Colorado, including medical bills being charged to victims/survivors and the quality of healthcare services provided.
Club Q Employees
Financial help for Club Q employees, including contract employees, needs additional transparency in how much has been collected in donations at various fundraisers and how those donations are being distributed to employees. As with any fundraising effort, it is important that donor intent is actualized and the money raised for employees goes directly to employees.
Memorialization and Long-Term Community Projects
Conversations around memorialization, community rebuilding projects, and long-term needs must be put on pause and take a back seat to the immediate needs of victims/survivors. Everyone working in this space should come together to ensure victims/survivors are adequately cared for BEFORE shifting focus to other projects and programs. Nonprofits and business leaders should prioritize people over buildings. Now is not an appropriate time to shift the focus away from victims/survivors. Fundraising efforts for these projects/programs should be separate from fundraising for victims/survivors and should come later so that money is not being diverted away from victims/survivors and to projects that can receive state/federal/private funding.
Some Notes Moving Forward
Since the Club Q shooting occurred at a gay bar, nonprofit organizations are leaning on experiences from Orlando’s gay nightclub shooting to craft plans for the future and develop long-term strategies in Colorado Springs. This is a faulty strategy.
The victim base in Orlando was demographically and culturally distinct from the victim base in Colorado Springs. Orlando had over 300 victims/survivors, while the victim base in Colorado Springs appears to be less than 50. Orlando is also distinct politically and socio-economically, with a totally different infrastructure and support mechanisms for LGBT2QIA+ people. There are also ongoing struggles in Orlando that do not need to be reproduced in Colorado Springs and can be prevented under ethical, informed leadership.
In addition, much has been learned in the past two decades from mass shootings across the country about what works and what does not. To configure a response in Colorado Springs in 2022-2023, based on the response in Orlando in 2016 is erroneous. There are other mass shootings in other locations with more similarities and correlations that can provide better frameworks and practices for moving forward in the response to the Club Q shooting.
It is also important to realize and emphasize that long-term community needs are not the same as long-term victim needs. Mass shootings almost always shed light on larger community issues, gaps, and needs, but community investments should not be made with donations from the generous public that are intended for victims. There should always be separate fundraising efforts for long-term community needs that are not commingled with a victims’ fund and that are explicit and transparent in their goals.