Being born and raised in upstate New York, my favorite time of year has always been the fall. Cider, football and apple orchards are some of the activities I long for all year long. However, if you were to ask me what my favorite month would was, easily it would be… August! Not only is it my birthday month, but it is also Black Philanthropy Month. Started in 2011 by Dr. Jacqueline Bouvier Copeland, Black Philanthropy Month was created to be a “global celebration and concerted campaign to elevate African-descent giving and funding equity.” Highlighting this is essential to our sector which has for so long undervalued the collective giving of the Black community and the impact of investing in Black-led organizations in our community and across the globe.
Let’s talk history. The legacy of philanthropy in the Black community is deep and runs back many, many years. Although today you may think of philanthropists like LeBron James, Oprah, Tyler Perry, or Robert Johnson, Black giving goes back to the stories of James Forten, who used his business proceeds to fund abolitionist newspapers after the Revolutionary War, and Madam C.J. Walker, the first Black woman millionaire, and one of the country’s biggest philanthropists at the turn of the 20th century. Black giving also has been rooted in everyday people like Ms. Osceola Davis, a poor seamstress in Mississippi who through her own poverty was able to save six figures and start a scholarship fund at the local university in Mississippi, that is still funding students today.
Black people, often stereotyped as only being on the receiving end of the philanthropic hand, have always been givers and committed to the idea of “philanthropy”, which includes the ideals of generosity, unity, and a commitment to the lifting of one’s own community. That legacy of giving still lives on today. Various studies have shown that since 2010, Black families have contributed the largest proportion of their wealth to charity, despite the many structural barriers that have created a significant wealth gap and have blocked the creation of generational wealth that occurred in white communities. Nearly two-thirds of Black households donate to community-based organizations, totaling 11 billion dollars in giving. Currently, the data shows Black households are giving away 25% more of their income per year than white households which is significant since 48% of the households giving report an income of below 50K a year. In addition, Black Americans are more likely to help and give money to strangers in need with 76% of Black donors stating they give to strangers compared with just under 50% percent of donors overall.
Now let’s talk numbers. Although I have just shared with you the data regarding the commitment to giving within the Black community, this has not been reflected in the money being given to organizations from our sector. A 2020 study’s findings reveal that the total philanthropic giving to women and girls of color is just $5.48 per year for each woman or girl of color in the United States, accounting for just 0.5% of the total $66.9 billion given by foundations. The median size of grants made by foundations to organizations by and for women and girls of color is $15,000. Such small grants make it difficult to hire and pay staff sufficiently or adequately support the use of multiple strategies while working on multiple issues. In 2017, the median grant size for all foundation grants reported to Candid was $35,000, meaning the median grant to organizations by and for women and girls of color is less than half the overall median. Even when nonprofits with leaders of color won grants, differences remained. The research found that the unrestricted assets of groups with leaders of color were 76% smaller than those led by whites. The facts are that organizations led by people of color are awarded less grant money and are trusted less to make decisions about how to spend those funds than groups with white leaders.
This must change.
I challenge each of you to become more familiar with the motivations and giving patterns behind Black philanthropy including the role of family tradition, civil rights, and faith. In addition, get to know both the Black-led organizations and the Black-focused nonprofit organizations that are here in the Valley and across the country and use your influence and privilege to highlight and partner with them. Identify and build relationships with key Black philanthropists in this community such as the Black Philanthropy Initiative and REAP. I challenge our foundations both big and small to give more to these organizations, with fewer restrictions, trusting the organizations to make the best decisions on how to spend the money in their own community. Most importantly, hire, develop, support, and listen to Black fundraisers. Often Black workers in the nonprofit sector are placed on the program side of organizations rather than in the development and/or finance office. When those who are raising the money, reflect the communities they are raising money for, the outcomes and impact are greater. Additionally, a majority of Black donors surveyed in 2021 shared that they engage and give mostly because of “the trust relationship they have with the person asking”. I am proud to be a part of the legacy of Black Philanthropy as both a philanthropist and a fundraiser and hope we all will continue both in August and all the other months of the year to…
Naquana Borrero, CFRE
Vice President, YNPN Phoenix
Director of Development and Communications, The Nash
Owner, Bella Vita Consulting Group