Black Philanthropy Month: We All Have Something to Give

by Chad U. Jones, Executive Director, Community Investment Network

Black Philanthropy Month was launched two years ago, as a month-long opportunity to highlight how Black communities across the globe are investing in one another, establishing new faces and fronts and forms of giving back in the 21st century.

Traditions of giving go back centuries, across all ethnicities and nationalities. It was only in the late 20th century that the idea emerged that philanthropic giving was only for the wealthy, rather than something that we are all capable of, and best performed through mutual aid societies and self-help associations ranging from the United Order of True Redeemers to the United Negro Improvement Association and the National Council of Negro Women.

Population-focused funds, giving circles and susus (as they are known in the West Indies) are vehicles for collective giving. A few things about pooling money and time collectively: it spreads the responsibility, imbues collaboration and bolsters feelings of connectedness. Giving collectively is a radical notion in a society where we are taught to not trust, to not share money stories. As a result, we oftentimes attempt to address entrenched social issues — such as access and racial inequities — in isolated ways. And we wonder why we struggle to see progress.

Our efforts for Black Philanthropy Month are for more African Americans, Black immigrants, people of color and people throughout the Diaspora to focus on the supply side of philanthropy. Doing so expands our ideas about where we can locate resources; this helps us begin to recognize the wealth of ideas and financial resources in all communities — including communities of color and “poor” communities. We have to dismiss the idea that foundations alone will provide the capital for our projects. I learned from Lynne Twist that Giving USA’s own figures indicate that 73 percent of all giving in the United States is done by people who earn less than $150,000. Yet, when most of us visualize a donor, we do not picture our own neighbors, a school teacher, a laborer or a retiree.

We have to expunge the perception that only certain groups of people have the resources to fund our organizations, innovation and movements for social change. Once we have done this, we have to begin to dismiss the taboos associated with talking about money, and become more vulnerable as we share our dreams, our blind spots and our relationship to money.

As an Architect of Black Philanthropy Month, along with the African Women’s Development Fund, and the Giving Back Project, the Community Investment Network espouses that people of all classes and all races have something to give. Therefore, August is a perfect opportunity to connect with and invest in, to inspire and be inspired by community philanthropists from Charlotte and Seattle to Johannesburg and Kingston.

1 Response to “Black Philanthropy Month: We All Have Something to Give”

  1. 1 Jeanine Milly Cooper August 22, 2013 at 6:58 am

    “73 percent of all giving in the United States is done by people who earn less than $150,000.”
    The philanthropic instinct is really widespread at all levels, not just at what could be considered the donor level. In 2011, when the Kenyans for Kenya initiative was launched and carried out, of the $9 million or so that was raised, 30% ($3 million!!) came in donations of US 50 cents or less.
    Black Philanthropy Month is mainly for the US and the diaspora. However, the African Union has also selected this month to run its Helping Hands campaign, to highlight African and diaspora humanitarians. Helping Hands is based on the premise that helping others is a part of African culture; because it is not labelled as humanitarian or charitable, not tax deductible or even vaunted by the givers, it has not been recognized.
    Maybe next year, the two initiatives can be linked up and cross-fertilize. Together we can change the way we perceive philanthropy, harness the great work and good practices and contribute to a positive transformation in Africa.

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