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Monday, February 1, 2021

Why Give Black?

Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation

Americans gave away more money in 2019 than ever before: $450 billion to causes they believe in. That’s a wonderful thing. 2020 looks good too. $11.4 billion was donated to the fight against COVID-19, for instance, and $7.6 billion went toward racial equity. A recent survey reports that 25 percent of donors say they’ll give even more this year.

On the occasion of Black History Month, it is important to note that only a tiny fraction of the $450 billion went to organizations led by a Black, Indigenous, or Latino/a/x leader. How small? An estimated 4% of total grants and contributions. What’s more, that funding is mostly small-dollar, short-term, and/or restricted, leaving these leaders with little room to innovate and grow. 


In fact, the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy found that combined funding to Black communities makes up 1 percent of all community foundation funding. “The combined Black population is 15 percent,” the NCRP’s report says, “resulting in an underfunding of Black communities of $2 billion.” The unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76 percent smaller than their white-led counterparts.


This giving gap is why we, along with technologist Davd Setiadi, founded Give Blck, to advance racial equity in giving. 


Why does closing the giving gap matter? It matters because when money doesn’t reach projects run by people of color, that means money doesn’t reach the people with the most experience and the most knowledge of the communities they are trying to serve. The goal of achieving racial equity in giving is not just getting to equity for equity’s sake. It’s meant to do the work better. It’s a step toward ensuring that the money given away can actually do what it is meant to do. Most donors give to have an impact on the causes they support. Actually achieving it means they must find and support the underserved organizations that are embedded in the communities that have the greatest needs and that can do the most with more investment.


As Black women who have both successfully started nonprofits, we’ve experienced the problems faced by organizations led by people of color firsthand: greater scrutiny, less available research dedicated to these organizations, social networks open only to a donor class defined by generational wealth. 


The Stanford Social Innovation Review recently published an excellent overview of racial bias in philanthropy, including an all-too-typical anecdote: the CEO of a Native American-led nonprofit organization, up for a grant renewal from a foundation that has been their funder for 25 years, goes through 18 months of defending its organization’s approach and demonstrated success to their program officer before securing renewed funding. That is contrasted by the experience of a white peer who happens to run into the same program officer in a bar after a conference, and, after sketching out a three-year project plan on the back of a napkin, gets funding in three months. 


This is only one example of how inequities in funding play themselves out to the detriment of Black, Latino/a/x, and Indigenous organizations. Certainly, 2020 seems to have shed a light on these discrepancies and brought increased interest by donors to fund more broadly. This effort needs to be sustained and embedded into the culture of giving. 


This is the culture shift we seek to foster at Give Blck, the world’s first and only searchable directory of Black-founded nonprofit organizations. Since launching in September of 2020, we have grown to list over 500 verified Black-founded, tax-exempt organizations based in the United States. Sortable by category and geography, the organizations hail from 41 different states and illustrate the diversity of interests and needs in the Black community. 


We have heard repeatedly that one challenge in giving to Black-led organizations is knowing how to find them. Give Blck is the tool that solves it.  Now givers have even less of an excuse for not putting dollars into racial equity. There are Black-led nonprofits that align with any donor’s passions or interests. 


This past spring and summer Americans responded to George Floyd’s grotesque and unjust murder with grief, outrage and an outpouring of dollars. We hope to help givers sustain that generosity beyond their one-time gifts. Black Americans needed support in the summer of 2020 and they need it even more in the winter of 2021. 


Every one of us must commit to real action every year if we indeed want a more equal society. We can’t simply hope it will happen. Including nonprofits founded and run by Black people in your philanthropic giving is a meaningful way to advance racial equity. As donors, you have the chance to build relationships with these long underfunded organizations and inspire true partnerships that can have real impact in the areas you care most about. 


Nonprofits presented by Give Blck and Charity Navigator represent a wide variety of categories and cause areas, and provide services nationwide.  We encourage you to become a partner for change. Watch for promotions about these organizations on social media this month, reshare those promotions with family, friends, and neighbors, select a charity or charities to support, become a monthly donor, and give Black.  Visit: giveblck.org and charitynavigator.org/blackfounded.



About our authors: Christina Lewis is a social entrepreneur, writer, speaker and investor. You can find her on Instagram @thechristina99 Stephanie Ellis-Smith is a philanthropist who has over 20 years of experience in the non-profit and philanthropic sectors and is a Certified Advisor in multi-generational family philanthropy. They are co-founders of Give Blck.   


Photo Credit: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - 'Revelations' (Creative Commons)


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