It’s August – that means it’s Black Philanthropy Month.
Too often philanthropy is still viewed as a word that belongs to someone else – a word associated primarily with a small percentage of white people with wealth who give large transformative gifts. Yet the word philanthropy means love of humankind – a love expressed in a great diversity of ways by a great diversity of people. And that is the value of Black Philanthropy Month. To remind us that we are philanthropists and that we can – and do – make an impact in our local communities and globally. It encourages black donors to declare, “I’m a black philanthropist” and to get busy on social media with #IamABP.
We must view our giving as philanthropy. We have to see ourselves as philanthropists, and encourage each other to step-up our giving especially to those causes where we are disproportionately and severely impacted. Sometimes it feels as if we as a culture have forgotten what got us to where we are today: sharing resources with each other, supporting our churches, colleges and universities. For much of our history black churches were the seat of philanthropy. In communities across the country that’s still true. At the same time philanthropy has become more sophisticated, and advanced beyond passing the basket.
When we speak of philanthropy as “sophisticated” we are referring to the process of defining philanthropic priorities, figuring how to “sell” our priorities, having a multi-year plan, being involved, creating awareness, recruiting donors and influencers, securing short and long term commitments, and assuming visible leadership. We have to demonstrate our commitment with our giving, involvement and leadership. For example, if we believe initiatives such as education (K-12 and higher education), eliminating poverty, decreasing incarceration, and increasing health are priorities then that’s where we need to visibly invest our time, money and talent. We can’t wait for someone else to lead our causes.
With the African American consumer market exceeding a trillion dollars, we know we can change conditions in our communities and take a seat at the philanthropic table as equal partners. We can give individually and most importantly we can combine our gifts with others to increase our collective impact.
We also need to use our positions as executives within corporations, foundations and major nonprofits to advance initiatives that benefit the African American community as well as causes in Africa and across the diaspora.
Corporate America values our contributions as consumers. Now we need to be appreciated for our philanthropy. We are more than the recipients of philanthropy: we are donors and influencers.
Black Philanthropy Month was created in August 2011 by Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network as an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving. Let’s use Black Philanthropy Month as a time to recommit to growing a culture of giving.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.