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GMHC's Head Fundraiser Resigns as AIDS Walk Cash Falls Short, Sources Say

By Mathew Katz | May 16, 2014 6:55am
  The AIDS Walk is pulling in less fundraising money than expected, sources said. 
The AIDS Walk is pulling in less fundraising money than expected, sources said. 
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CHELSEA —The head of fundraising for Gay Men's Health Crisis is stepping down after a shortfall in donations raised for this year's AIDS Walk, as the organization faces a budget deficit, sources within the organization told DNAinfo New York.

Seth Rosen, the managing director of development, communication and marketing at the prominent AIDS service organization, will leave in June, according to multiple sources inside the organization. 

"My decision to leave GMHC was made months ago as my husband and I are adopting a baby, who will be born in August," Rosen wrote in an email to DNAinfo New York on Wednesday.

Still, insiders fear that GMHC's board may be blaming Rosen — who is generally well-liked by staff members there — for the drop in donations to this Sunday's AIDS Walk and to other fundraisers.

"He's afraid he's going to be blamed for the agency not making money," said one insider with knowledge of the situation.

A spokesman for GMHC would not comment on the AIDS Walk fundraising.

The 2014 AIDS Walk had raised $3,286,835 in online funds as of Friday morning, according to the group's website.

That amount is well below targets for the walk — the largest HIV/AIDS fundraising event in the world — which raised $5.4 million in 2013, insiders said.

The agency has floundered in other recent fundraising events, sources said. 

"They're in a panic," said one insider with knowledge of GMHC's finances.

Rosen is not the only senior manager to depart in recent months. David Fazio, the agency's former chief financial officer, left in October.

GMHC, the AIDS Walk's main beneficiary, has come under fire over the past year about where it has been spending the money raised by the charity walk. As DNAinfo New York first reported, only a fraction of cash raised by the walk goes to programs helping people with HIV and AIDS. The bulk of it goes toward administration costs and the nonprofit's whopping $389,000 monthly rent on a largely empty office.

GMHC was also slammed for a "sweetheart deal" with MZA Events, the private company that organizes the AIDS Walk, which gets cash and free office space from the nonprofit.

Rosen's resignation comes after news that GMHC's new CEO Kelsey Louie previously resigned from an LGBT running club after being accused of fraudulently rigging its board election.

GMHC has defended Louie, who has not yet officially taken over as CEO, even as clients expressed concern about his history. Clients sent a letter to GMHC's board members asking when they became aware of Louie's alleged sharing of HIV-positive client information in a bid to win an election at the Front Runners club.

"Given GMHC's recent past of bad decisions and the terrible publicity as a result of such, why would the [board of directors] hire anyone with any troubling issues, much less the extremely concerning issues Mr. Louie is having to address before he even starts, and will this be a continued distraction if he actually does start?" the Consumer Advisory Board, the group that represents GMHC's HIV-positive clients, wrote in the May 12 letter.

"In short, why would GMHC hire a person who is involved in a 'controversy' as the CEO when GMHC is trying to put its own controversies behind them?"

GMHC board chair Mickey Rolfe responded in a statement: "GMHC’s Board of Directors stands fully behind our selection of Kelsey Louie as the new CEO. Kelsey has devoted the last seven years at Harlem United to serving the best interests and improving the lives of its clients and we look forward to having him continue and expand his work on behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS at GMHC.”