Advancing Black Philanthropy
By Tasha Tucker, Program Director, Racial Justice Grants & Mission Investing, Trinity Wall Street
August is the peak of the dog days of summer. These hot, hazy days are perfect for reflection, planning for the future and the ideal time to honor Black philanthropy. Established in August 2011 by Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson and the Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network, Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) is an annual global celebration of giving by people of African descent. According to the BPM website, “the primary aims of BPM are informing, involving, inspiring and investing in Black philanthropic leadership to strengthen African-American and African-descent giving in all its forms.” BPM is a valuable time for consideration of the past and what comes ahead.
As a Black woman, a practitioner of philanthropy, a philanthropist and a recipient of the generosity of others, this Black Philanthropy Month I reflected on my experiences in the field and, more broadly, philanthropy in the Black and diasporic communities. During this tumultuous time in our country, strong Black-led institutions, alliances, coalitions, groups and individuals are more important than ever. Centering the voice and leadership of Black folks in driving social change should be a top priority for all foundations and philanthropic organizations working to advance racial equity. From my engagement in philanthropy, I offer some advice and resources for philanthropic institutions:
- Be committed to implementing efforts to not only retain Black foundation professionals but also encourage and champion their leadership while trusting their expertise. Black leadership in philanthropy is key to engaging in authentic and informed grantmaking in communities of color. A paper by LM Strategies commissioned by the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) in 2014 indicated that isolation in institutions and not being valued in grantmaking conversations are a few barriers faced by Black executives navigating the foundation space and can lead to them to leaving the sector.
- Seek partnerships with Black donors, not only recognizing large gifts, but also the volumes of small gifts and collective giving by Black families, churches and civic organizations that are making a broad impact. Engaging and incubating black philanthropic giving is vital to the vibrancy of the sector. For example, Black households tend to give more of their discretionary income — as much as 25 percent more — to charitable causes than white Americans. This U.S. Trust study suggests that this figure increases as African Americans move into the ranks of the wealthy.
- Ensure that your organization has a plan to invest in Black-led organizations even though these groups can lack significant foundation support. Often, secured funding from a leading foundation signals that an organization has the appropriate capacity for an investment, but sometimes no foundation is willing to take a chance on a Black-led organization. The Black-Led Social Change Funders Network, powered by the ABFE and the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, is an essential resource leading the conversation on how foundations can strengthen the infrastructure of Black-led institutions for greater social and political power for Black people. Increased investment in Black-led organizations from foundations like Borealis Philanthropy, North Star Fund and East Bay Community Foundation provide solid examples of how to engage with these vital organizations.
I attended the New York Blacks in Philanthropy Summer Soirée where I had a chance to connect with my colleagues and the spirit of the evening reminded me of these important and vital lessons for foundations. As August comes to an end, and we head off for vacations and prepare for the busy fall season, I hope this advice can inform the ongoing work of foundations and philanthropic organizations committed to justice and equity.