A tale of two social entrepreneurs

Once upon a time (ok, 2009) in a faraway land (ok, New York City), Brian Elliot founded Friendfactor with a bold mission: to use the power of friendship to dramatically accelerate the pace of change for LGBT Americans. The idea was to build a social network that would make it easy for LGBT folks to ask their straight friends to learn about and take action to advance gay rights, not because of a distant political cause, but because it mattered to them personally. Over the course of the next two years he recruited an amazing team, built up both a 501(c)3 educational organization and a 501(c)4 advocacy organization, created an online social network and innovative click-to-call advocacy tool, and drove several thousand Americans to spread the word and call their legislators to help win marriage equality in New York, Maryland, and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in an even farther away land (Durham, NC), Joanne Sprague was cooking up an equality plot of her own. As a student at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, she had found that while her classmates were gay-friendly, they didn’t really talk about their support of their LGBT classmates or make it clear that the community was inclusive. The LGBT club was mostly made up of LGBT students, so she joined a campaign to get more straight people like her involved, and was amazed to see the positive response from students who had simply never realized they could make a difference. Over the course of her time at Duke, the campaign grew into a formal ally training and engagement program, growing the club membership by 500%. Joanne started to explore whether this impact could be replicated at other universities and companies, finding enthusiasm from students and professionals alike. She began planning to start her own organization to engage straight people in the movement for LGBT equality.

Brian and Joanne connected in early 2012, and soon realized that their goals were very well aligned. Joanne’s model offered a new way to get more straight folks engaged – by making their actions more local, more community-based, and more tangibly impactful than online actions – and Friendfactor’s brand and organizational infrastructure exponentially increased the speed at which the model could be launched. The teams set up an exploratory working committee in March 2012, started piloting ally programs in July, and by September merged the entities into one organization with a common mission: to help straight friends become visible, vocal, and active allies in their communities.  Jacob Herald, CEO of Guidestar.org and former Friendfactor advisory board member, lauded the move as an example of efficient and savvy organization change, saying “the social change world needs to see more of this sort of smart organizational evolution.”

With that we welcome you to the new Friendfactor.  Take a look around and please Contact Us with any questions, or Join Us to start or join an ally program at your organization!


Friendfactor expresses its deepest gratitude to all the supporters, employees, volunteers, donors, and grantmakers who made Friendfactor 1.0 so successful. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the achievements and learning gained over the past few years. Friendfactor 2.0 stands gratefully on your shoulders.

If you are looking for resources from our earlier website, please visit archive.friendfactor.org.