What Black Philanthropy Month Might Mean to Nonprofits and Racial Justice



August 1, 2103; The Grio


August is Black Philanthropy Month. What does that mean for the nonprofit sector? Tracey Webb, the founder of BlackGivesBack.com, suggests that it is a time to “channel our collective energy and resources to transform our communities…by contributing time, talent and treasure.”

Webb explains that BPM 2013 will aim “to foster civic engagement around philanthropy, amplify authentic stories of black philanthropy, cultivate the next generation of givers and expand opportunities for people of African descent to give through new and traditional channels, including giving circles, global giving, crowd funding, volunteerism and more.”

Why black philanthropy? Valaida Fullwood, the author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, says that despite gains for black Americans, she is “troubled by how much race still determines our experiences and opportunities,” citing issues such as “disparities in employment, pay, wealth and healthcare, inequities in educational opportunities and student achievement, re-segregation of schools, [and] imbalances within the criminal justice system.”

Webb says that Black Philanthropy Month was started by the African Women’s Development Fund USA as “an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving in the United States and worldwide.” Jackie Copeland-Carson, the executive director of AWDF, explains that BPM celebrates the black community’s “rich, shared traditions of giving, self-help, and innovation throughout the U.S. and the world.”

How are localities participating in BPM 2013? In Charlotte NC, a giving circle called New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP) is sponsoring forums on philanthropy and the arts and on the meaning of the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On the Black Philanthropy Month website, there are a number of BPM events listed in August and beyond, though their identity as BPM-specific events is not necessarily obvious. The short list of BPM 2013 sponsors notes a commitment of $25,000 for BPM from DonorsChoose.org as well as a pledge to match donations to classroom projects posted on DonorsChoose on a dollar-for-dollar basis (up to $50 per donor) through the month of August for donors who use the BPM promo code “DREAMS.”

While not conducting an intensive review of other organizations, we haven’t seen other organizations, particularly civil rights organizations or the Congressional Black Caucus, making mention of, much less recognizing, BPM 2013. There have, however, been a number of calls for increased philanthropic engagement addressing the disparities that Webb listed, lifted up by the reactions to the Zimmerman verdict regarding the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Shawn Dove, who runs the Campaign for Black Male Achievement of the Open Society Foundations, wrote that there’s a need for philanthropic commitment to addressing the needs of black men and boys. A blog posting on the website of the Joint Affinity Groups endorsed philanthropic support for black men and boys, but called for philanthropic attention to the bigger issue of racial disparities on a number of issues. Another blog called for affluent blacks to capitalize a “National Anti-Racial Profiling Fund.”

There would seem to be a number of organizations that one would expect to be involved in Black Philanthropy Month, or at least recognizing or linking BPM to major issues like gun violence, racial profiling, stand-your-ground laws, and the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act, among others. Can NPQ Newswire readers tell us what they see as the importance of Black Philanthropy month and offer specifics about BPM programs they are joining?—Rick Cohen

  • Richard Love, Publisher

    Hi Riack, Liked your commentary and its in the 8/8/13 issue of your Long Beach Times Newspaper.

  • BlackPhilanthropyMonthFan

    Insightful opinion piece from NQ.

    There were two points mentioned in TheGrio.com article that weren’t included above:

    1) Black Philanthropy Month started in August 2011, so it is quite new. As word about the initiative spreads, I would guestimate that additional organizations, including those that focus on social justice, civil rights, community and institutional giving, etc., will begin to observe it.

    2) It also shares that “The W.K. Kellogg Foundation released a report in 2012 that stated nearly two-thirds of African-American households donate—to the tune of $11 billion each year and so at a higher rate than other groups”. So why not recognize and celebrate African American giving in a more formal way such as Black Philanthropy Month?

    While African Americans are reported to give more, there are still disparities in education, health, employment, justice and a host of other areas. In my opinion, Black Philanthropy Month shares with African Americans that our giving matters ($11B is a lot of influence) and we can make a difference collectively by volunteering and donating to causes of importance to our community.

  • African Women’s Development Fund USA, Black Philanthropy Month Founder and 2013 Partner

    AWDF USA welcomes the dialogue and encourages all of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector to advance black giving and join the BPM 2013 celebration and commemorate Martin Luther King’s fight for justice in the US and globally. Find out more about how you can support Mother Africa on the continent and the US at usawdf.org.

  • Black Philanthropy Month Fan

    Provocative piece from Rick Cohen.

    To build on the prior fan’s comment:

    1) Surprising to many, people of African descent have among the highest levels of giving in the world. As noted, African-American communities gave $11 billion to charity according to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. What’s more, a recent World Bank report documents that US African immigrants gave at least $11 billion to their home countries. This means that together, the US African community game $22 billion in 2011 alone. That’s philanthropy in action!

    2) When African Women’s Development Fund USA founded Black Philanthropy Month in August 2011, the intent was to create an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving in the US and worldwide. Just two years later, the fact that four leaders in the movement have come together to launch a six month campaign to foster civic engagement, showcase stories of black philanthropy, and expand philanthropic opportunities to give through new channels, among other initiatives suggest that the movement is gaining critical traction. I agree that one might expect other types of organizations will join the movement.

    In my opinion, Black Philanthropy Month can be a touchstone for both African Descent communities and Americans that our giving is making a difference in transforming lives in our communities.

  • Valaida Fullwood

    Prompting reflection, conversation, connections and action is what Black Philanthropy Month 2013 (BPM 2013) provides ample opportunities to do. As one of the organizers of this year’s campaign, I’m energized by the public’s interest and response to the BPM 2013 launch on August 1.

    Social media interactions and media coverage—from print to digital to broadcast—indicate fertile ground for this year’s engagement and a fruitful future for subsequent work. News of a growing number of community forums, panel discussions, fundraisers, special events and back-to-school drives in observance of BPM 2013 also show a movement that continues to flower. The campaign’s design creates space for a variety of individuals, groups, communities, organizations and institutions to determine why and how to participate and to organize on their own while at the same time becoming a part of something greater.

    Black Philanthropy Month 2013 illustrates that, even in times of divergent interests and assets, celebration of a shared heritage and legacy is a unifying force.

  • M. A. Cummings

    This is a worthy initiative – congratulations to African Women’s Development Fund USA for beginning this and engaging a much-needed conversation about the philanthropic spirit in Black communities.

    Firstly, I had not even heard a peep about such an initiative – glad I have been browsing my LinkedIn groups more often recently. Clearly more, and more effective, PR is in order.

    And on to secondly and thirdly, etc. It’s importance to me is as clear as the importance of engaging non-Blacks and Blacks or people of color in any discussion of different cultural patterns about ANY social and cultural practice of significance. We need to be able to appreciate cultural differences and intersections and how racial and ethnic identities play into that. Not so that we can feel good or bad about ourselves and get hung up on victimhood or whatever is the pathology of the moment, but so that 1) society benefits from more, and more effective philanthropic services of all kinds, and 2) the process of philanthropy becomes more inclusive and progressive, and can increasingly live up to its ideals of improving all lives, everywhere, in a democratic and sustainable and just way.

    I will be looking into the calendar of events and identifying organizations to join that match my philanthropic interests. I have been considering developing my own giving circle and may choose to affiliate with this initiative. Thank you.

  • Calvin Pearson

    August is an ideal month for Black Philanthropy Month. Many people do not realize that it was in the latter part of August 1619 that the first enslaved Africans were brought to English North America. They were brought ashore at Point Comfort, present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. Two of the original Africans gave birth to the first documented African child born in English North America. Project 1619 is raising funds to construct a monument at Fort Monroe by 2019 to honor the 400th anniversary of the arrivals of Africans in English North America. So August is an ideal month to honor our African heritage and donate to this worthy cause. project1619.org

  • k osafo-gyimah

    This is an ideal place and time to draw attention to what is being accomplished by the KWAME NKRUMAH LEARNING CENTER in African education and the need to support it. Visit the website: http://www.kwamenkrumahlearningcenter.com.