Black philanthropy month highlights the role of Black people as philanthropists. It is part of the larger process of telling a richer and more accurate story of Black history. While lifting up Black philanthropists it is also important to look at the larger community and examine how their philanthropy addresses – or overlooks – the needs identified by Black people within Black communities. Black nonprofit leaders can begin a conversation that lays the groundwork for change in how Black-led nonprofits are funded. Here are some questions that can start the conversation. Be sure to add your own!
Consider starting a community conversation that uncovers who receives money from who and for what. Questions could include: What has been your history with local philanthropists and foundations? How do you rate them? In terms of the overall general community, do you know who is funded and at what levels? What about within the Black community? Have you been invited to apply for a grant? If yes, what was the process like? Accessible? Complicated? Have ever reached out to a funder or philanthropist? Has anyone reached out to you? Have you been funded? What was your experience Do you know how funding decisions are made in regard to projects in the Black community? Do you believe philanthropists and funders are transparent and accountable to the Black community?
Other questions can focus on funding recommendations. These can include: Based on the needs and strengths of the Black community, what do you believe should be funded? Do you believe the mission, vision, and goals of local philanthropists and funders meet the needs of the Black community? How can philanthropists and funders increase the positive impact they make on the Black community? What criteria would you suggest for determining which Black-led organizations should be funded? For example, can the value of Black people as artists, researchers, athletes, technologists, and musicians be as worthy of investment as “poverty fighting” programs? Are we only seen for our deficits or are strengths equally worthy of giving to?
There are also hard questions that can be asked. For example, Can non-Black funders and philanthropists have the sensitivity and know-how to make critical decisions regarding funding Black-led nonprofits? How would you offset what those who are not Black cannot see?
Nonprofits are coming together to talk about how they are funded, by whom, and importantly what they believe are the needs of the Black community. They are moving from informal conversations on the grapevine, to public conversations with the goal of seeing more money granted to Black-led nonprofits. Within some communities, funders and philanthropists are coming together to discuss equity in funding. They are creating guidelines for themselves that can lead to more equitable funding. Whether you are involved as a nonprofit leader or as a philanthropist or funder you can work with others to increase funding, transparency and accountability. The next step is yours! Learn more about Black Philanthropy Month at www.blackphilanthropymonth.com.
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