Young, Philanthropic and Black; “Old, White and Wealthy” Move Over!

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February 24, 2013; Source: Washington Post

Friends of Ebonie, a small marketing firm focusing on developing the next generation of philanthropists, is fighting the stereotype that philanthropy is for the “old, white and wealthy.” Founder Ebonie Johnson Cooper launched Friends of Ebonie in 2010 as blog encouraging social engagement; as the blog audience grew, she realized, “no one else was talking to young, black philanthropists.” Her organization has since hosted events and webinars and she anticipates becoming the go-to resource for young philanthropists of color. Friends of Ebonie recently hosted networking events in New York City and Washington, D.C. designed to connect professionals in their 20s and 30s with local nonprofits and with one other. The most recent D.C. event attracted 100 young professionals representing government, nonprofit and business sectors for a mixer and panel discussion.

At the event, several nonprofits were able to recruit skilled volunteers, expand their donor base, and explore partnerships. For Kat Calvin, founder of Michelle in Training, a youth development nonprofit for girls, the event was a great fit. “One thing that’s really important is that our girls constantly interact with young black professionals because it’s not something they see every day. So being in a room like this was perfect for us,” Calvin told the Washington Post.

David J. Johns, director of the civic engagement consulting firm Impact, moderated the panel discussion. The Post noted that panelists included: “Rita Lassiter, secretary of the National Urban League Young Professionals; Clarence Wardell III, research analyst for CNA and co-founder of Tweenate; Joshua Lopez, political adviser and former at-large city council candidate; Stefanie Brown-James, former national African American vote director for Obama for America 2012; and Kezia Williams, chairwoman of Capital Cause.”

The energetic panel discussion covered a number of issues, from best practices for African American philanthropy to the impact of social media on giving. According to the Post, the general consensus was that the African American community should do more to hold itself accountable for giving back. “We may not have a lot of money to give, but we need to make sure we give,” said Johnson Cooper.

It’s important to note that a report released by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation last year found that there is already a strong culture of giving in the African American community. According to the report, African Americans give 25 percent more of their income per year than their white counterparts. The report is a part of the foundation’s Cultures of Giving program. Since 2007, the program has been recognizing, celebrating and promoting philanthropy and giving that has been taking place across communities of color. The Cultures of Giving Program seeks to help the nonprofit sector “shift their practices to reflect what communities of color are teaching us about the future of giving and its potential impact on our country’s most vulnerable children and families.” Along with initiatives like Black Gives Back and Cultures of Giving, Friends of Ebonie represents a new wave of efforts to help the nonprofit and philanthropic communities better understand and collaborate with the changing faces of philanthropy. –Leah Lomotey-Nakon