Is Big Gay Day exploiting LGBT charities?


Big Gay Day, an event that heavily promotes itself as being a charity fundraiser, has been accused of misleading patrons about the amount of money it gives to LGBT charities after only offering a small fraction of the money that it would normally donate.

Despite Big Gay Day boasting on social media that their 2015 event was the “most popular BGD to date”, only $4000 was given to its nominated LGBT community groups, well below the $25,000 – $35,000 that it normally donates.

Owned and run by Coles/Wesfarmers (who last year made a net profit of $2.44 billion), Big Gay Day told QNews ahead of the 2015 event that it “will continue its commitment to contributing 25 per cent of the event’s profits to the collective causes of nominated community charities”.

However, prior to 2015, 25% of ticket sales had been donated, not 25% of the profits, a difference that Big Gay Day co-founder Kyle Hogan describes as misleading and “unethical”.

“I think that they have taken advantage of this goodwill and have misled people to think that it was going to be the same as it was before,” Mr Hogan said. “And that’s unethical”.

Earlier this month, Coles/Big Gay Day continued to make claims that could be seen as misleading, taking to Facebook to say they had never made any changes to charity commitments.

“Our donation amount hasn’t altered (25% of all profits)… the amount we donate hasn’t changed since the first ever Big Gay Day…”, the event’s organisers posted.

In actual fact, the first two Big Gay Day events gave 100% of the door takings to charity, while every other year prior to 2015 had been 25% of the door.

QNews contacted the general manager of the Wickham Hotel, Jedd Rifai, to seek clarification about Big Gay Day’s dramatic drop in charitable support of the local LGBT community and to ask if Big Gay Day still considered itself to be a community fundraiser for the LGBT community as it has in all other years.

Mr Rifai declined to respond to any questions, however, a Melbourne-based media manager for Coles, who did not want to be named, sent the following statement to QNews.

“The Wickham has been proud to host the Big Gay Day for the past 16 years, providing a great day of entertainment and fun for Brisbane’s LGBTI community.

“Over that period, the Wickham has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to LGBTI-related causes who have partnered with the Big Gay Day.

“In previous years, these donations were funded as a proportion of door sales. However the high running costs of an event featuring international headline artists meant that the hotel actually made a significant loss on the BGD every year.

“So that we can continue to host this important event, in 2015 we moved to fund charitable donations out of profit rather than sales.

“While the 2015 Big Gay Day also recorded a loss, as a goodwill gesture we donated $4000 to our charity partners following the event.”

Coles’ claim that Big Gay Day has never made a profit is, however, disputed by Mr Hogan, who described the claim as “totally false”.

Mr Hogan, who ran Big Gay Day for six years, told QNews that other than the first few years when entry was a gold coin donation, the Big Gay Day events that he was involved with actually made substantial profits.

“The last two years that I was involved with made substantial profits because the budget that I prepared and adhered to as much as possible, the day was budgeted to make my yearly salary in profit. Which was in excess of ($)70,000 at the time,” Mr Hogan said.

While Coles is unlikely to ever publicly reveal how much money it made over the bar at the 2015 Big Gay Day, Mr Hogan says he is bewildered that it may have made a loss.

“I can’t see how an event that takes in excess of $300,000 (a combination of gate takings and bar purchases) can make a loss,” Mr Hogan said.

BIG GAY DAY donation graphIf Coles is correct in its claim that Big Gay Day never makes any profit, then its decision to change the charitable contribution from 25% of the gate to 25% of the profits was done so knowing that such a change meant it would not be required to give a single cent to charity, despite Coles continuing to heavily promote Big Gay Day as a charity event.

QNews has been contacted by three of the four community groups involved in the 2015 Big Gay Day which, while grateful to receive any financial support, made the point that they are not just passive recipients of funds raised on the day.

Each year, Big Gay Day relies on volunteers from the community groups who donate hundreds of man hours working at the event, rather than the event organisers having to pay additional staff.

One community group estimates that it volunteered approximately 80-90 hours of work setting up the event over two days, including having six volunteers working on the door throughout the day for a return of $1000.

At the time of publishing, Big Gay Day had not yet nominated any community groups which would receive funding from the event, however, organisers have announced that they plan on retaining their 2015 commitment of donating