Investing in Black-led organizations

Investing in Black-led organizationsAre all nonprofits created equally? Do they receive equal investment? Have equitable access to resources and expertise? Do we need to take a closer look at Black-Led Organizations to help ensure their sustainability and effectiveness? What role do these organizations play and why are they important?

In the report Black-Led Organizations In The Bay Area: From Crisis to Change authors Constance J. Walker and Jeannine N. Walker refer to these organizations as “BLOs” and define them as “registered nonprofit organizations with Black staff and/or Board leadership.” Their report for the Bay Area Black United Fund documents and analyzes the results of surveys and focus groups that gather information about BLOs in the San Francisco Bay Area. We share the findings – and subsequent actions and investments – as an example of one way to advance equity in the nonprofit sector.

Here are a few of the key findings, excerpted from the report.

  • Ninety percent of Bay Area BLOs identify themselves as Community-Based Organizations. 75% are mature organizations that have operated for 11 or more years.
  • 47% have very small budgets of $500,000 or less while only 10% have budgets greater than $5,000,000.
  • 42% have no reserves or endowment and, for those that do, it is most often insufficient.
  • For 92%, the chief executive officer or executive director primarily conducts fundraising and resource development.
  • Bay Area BLOs have limited staff support: 62% have staffs of 10 people or less and 84% have staffs of 20 people or less
  • For 59% of Bay Area BLOs at least 50% of their clients are Black and 30% serve a client-base that is at least 80% Black.
  • On average, the ethnic composition of the population served by Bay Area BLOs is 59% Black and 23% Latino.

In terms of moving forward, Walker and Walker report that revenue, systems, training and leadership development will be critical to the success of BLOs and the communities they serve. They also reported that BLOs who participated in the study were very interested in a “collaborative capacity building initiative” that would target BLOs.

This report, written in 2015, has become a call to action. Since its publication five funders have come together as the Funders’ Collaborative to invest in capacity building that will support the growth, sustainability and impact of BLOs.

They are:

  1. The East Bay Community Foundation
  2. The San Francisco Foundation
  3. The Kapor Center for Social Impact
  4. The Y & H Soda Foundation
  5. The California Endowment.

They have two goals:

  1. Enhance the growth, sustainability, impact and sense of community of Black-led anchor institutions in the Bay Area that provide critical programs and services to ensure the long-term vitality of the organizations and the Black communities they serve
  2. Apply a fresh, dynamic and replicable approach to collaborative capacity building that further develops the nonprofit sector with a lens toward race and equity

This initiative will include an accelerator for emerging, innovative community anchors; a three year stabilizer program for mature community anchors; and cross-cutting programs and services open to all BLOs in the service area.

We are proud to be part of this initiative and hope it will become a model for communities across the country.

Learn more about the initiative at    Read the original report at

Copyright 2017 – Mel Shaw and Pearl Shaw, CFRE

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

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