VIDEO--Redefining Black Philanthropy

In this episode of "Dialogue for Discerning Donors", sponsored by the Association of Small Foundations (ASF), PhilanthroMedia went to Washington D.C. to interview leaders convened by the National Center for Black Philanthropy.

With only the five minutes allowed for this video format, it is impossible to convey the richness of conversations in which I participated there. (Thursday’s video blog from Victoria Rowell expands that coverage and will be followed, in coming weeks, with others vlogs.)

The strongest theme that emerged, and to which this episode is devoted, is the need to expand the contemporary definition of philanthropy to one that values time, treasure and talent (or "truth" as ASF Board Chair Christyne Hamilton states.) For those who might wonder why this is important, here are of few of this white woman’s take-aways:

Untapped Dollars -- One of the major goals of the National Center for Black Philanthropy, and the reason 500+ folks attended, was to expand philanthropy in the African American community. As any good fundraiser knows, and as I was reminded by Sam Gough who serves as chair of the Center, it is easier to invite folks to give more, than it is to get them to start giving. Despite the fact that African Americans already give more as a percentage of their income than any other group, they also give in ways that haven’t traditionally been valued. Expanding the definition is one way to grow the pie within this demographic.

Untapped Human Potential - Marnita Schroedl spoke to how she recently was able to raise $50,000 for the first board she ever joined. She told me that, if they had only looked to her for money when she was a young executive, they would have lost the treasure she has recently been able to tap on their behalf. It reminded me of deliberations I have heard on board development committees which undervalue young talent because they don’t have the capacity to, themselves, write big checks. Bring them along and the implication is that money may just well follow. (More from Marnita in a vlog in the coming weeks.)

Untapped Knowledge - In the video, I include a quote from Terri Lee Freeman, head of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, on her advice for white donors who want to give in black communities. She describes how "the worst thing" folks can do is to come in and start spending money without educating themselves. While it doesn’t fit the theme of the video perfectly, I included it because part of what (white) donors need is the perspectives of those with first-hand knowledge of targeted communities and strategies. By failing to tap the time and truth of African-Americans as volunteers and board members, valuable perspectives needed to inform strategic giving are often lost. This is demonstrated by a new report from the Urban Institute, which states that fully 51% of all nonprofit boards are composed solely of white non-Hispanic members. Even when the organization serves high numbers of minority group members, notable percentages of them include no corresponding minority group board members.

As is often the case, semantics reflect broader truths. That’s why I believe this piece is important for all of us committed to advancing the end of philanthropy as usual.

Susan Herr

Posted at 6:08 AM, Aug 03, 2007 in Streaming Media | Permalink | Comments (1)


Wonderful video! I wholeheartedly agree with looking beyond "treasure" as the measure of philanthropy. At Central Dallas Ministries, we raise over $7M per year in philanthropy ... but our most important contribution is from the 900+ low-income, predominantly Black individuals who volunteer their time and talent in our programs. By engaging "clients" in the delivery of services, we honor their dignity as people and renew their feelings of self-worth. It is critical that NPOs and foundations understand and value the non-cash contributions that are part of the philanthropic spectrum.

Posted by: Jeremy Gregg