The Thing About Philanthropy

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From an exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy, a text vinyl on gallery window that overlooks a neighborhood streetscape. Photo credit: Valaida Fullwood

Reframing portraits of philanthropy. Surprising to many, seemingly heretical to some, this idea fuels my imagination and writing. Over a decade ago, I began exploring multiple facets of philanthropy, particularly traditions of giving among African Americans. Struck by what seemed a whitewashing of mainstream philanthropy, which too often centers on financial wealth and whiteness, I was compelled to write about and lift up the unsung generosity of people of color as well as folks of modest means and all socioeconomic levels. This requires a modern reclamation of philanthropy—in meaning, in imagery and in practice.

Examining the root meaning of a word unlocks understanding. Greek in origin, philanthropy translates as “love of humanity.” Over centuries, the word has evolved in connotation and, today, is applied to activity ranging from individual and family practices to institutional grant-making to corporate social responsibility to global impact investing. Philanthropy, when interpreted broadly, can encompass a wide scope of beliefs and take many forms. Even so, most Americans point to only a sliver of this activity, largely because the quantity of dollars has come to eclipse the love of humanity as a defining feature of philanthropy.

The decades around the turn of the 20th century saw the rise of industrial magnates such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, whose exploits and enterprises amassed great fortunes. Their extraordinary financial donations to myriad causes and institutions contributed to the whittling down of ideas about philanthropy. Today, for many, philanthropy is synonymous with immense financial wealth. While but one facet, philanthropy centered on an abundance of money distorts the full picture.

Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a much-viewed TED Talk about “the danger of a single story” and the destructive nature of stereotypes when only one story is told and re-told. Troubling to me is philanthropy’s single story, patterned from wealthy white men of a bygone era. It is the story that has dominated the field for over a century and one that too often places Black people solely on the demand side of communal assistance—as only beneficiaries and “those in need.”

And that’s the thing about philanthropy. A far richer picture exists. In fact, studies reveal a striking irony. Black Americans give the highest percentage of discretionary income to philanthropic causes when compared to other racial groups, as reported by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and research of the Urban Institute. Stunningly, Blacks not only fail to receive due recognition, we also are frequently cut from conventional depictions of philanthropists. To add insult to injury, the script is flipped and dishonestly says, “Blacks don’t give” and “they’re looking for handouts.”

This knowledge gave birth to the Giving Back Project, which aims to tell a broader range of American philanthropy stories to restore “love” as the defining force in philanthropy. Expounding on an MLK quote, Bishop Michael Curry said in this now-famous royal wedding sermon: There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love.

Sharing this belief, I choose to frame philanthropy around the human factor and the powerful force of love, instead of money alone. In deconstructing the Greek translation, my re-interpretation is “love of what it means to be human.” Broad and inclusive, this frame applies to the writing and photography of the Giving Back Project, which includes my book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and the multimedia exhibit The Soul of Philanthropy.

Reclaiming the root meaning increases the breadth of philanthropic possibilities and expands whose stories can be told, celebrated and praised as exemplary. It’s a matter of training our eyes on the humanity of the beneficiary and the benefactor, too. To imply dollars are unimportant is not the point. This mind shift instead relegates the gift (whether money, time or talent) in elevation of the human spirit and human impulse to love.

Re-centering love reveals the essence of philanthropy. Without genuine concern, deep understanding and profound empathy for people, what’s in a check alone? In telling stories of African American philanthropy, this lens is particularly incisive. That’s because many of our philanthropic traditions were forged during times of scarcity and our motivations borne of oppression. The atrocity of slavery and unjust vestiges, like an endemic wealth gap, have failed to diminish our instinct to give. It is instead enlivened. Our stories of philanthropy remind all Americans that philanthropy is deeper than your pockets.

Black giving matters. Counter-narratives to American philanthropy’s single story are crucial for several reasons. First, it’s hard to be what you can’t see, as Marian Wright Edelman puts it. Without authentic representation and abounding stories of Black philanthropists in mainstream media and the public sphere, younger generations are susceptible to stale narratives. They may never come to know the proud traditions that have shaped our communities and country. Second, because the humanity of Black people is routinely challenged—in media portrayals, daily interactions and episodes throughout history—when reframed, philanthropy affirms it. A final point: For Black people, nurturing and strengthening philanthropy, for us and by us, is an imperative because our liberation cannot rest merely on the philanthropy of others. Emboldened by the single story, generosity flowing from unchecked bias, misguided ideas and momentary interest wields little power to affect meaningful social change.

To say the American philanthropy scene has a racial diversity problem is to assert a fact so conspicuous it would seem a waste of breath to voice it. Despite studies, diversity and inclusion initiatives and more studies, too many charitable institutions cling to the values and imagery of the single story. This at a time when the country is growing visibly more racially and ethnically diverse. The resistance to change results in a string of unsurprising headlines. Below are but a few recent ones.

Cropping out a wide spectrum of donors, volunteers and leaders because they don’t fit a narrow narrative is, indeed, dangerous and also telling. Curious, that a sector built on ideals of “love of humanity” struggles to acknowledge the value and humanity of people of color.

Blacks are the most philanthropic racial group in America, and yet most leaders and institutions in the field find the inclusion and engagement of Black people optional or, sadly, debatable. Contemporary issues and communities are too complex to dismiss swaths of givers, seasoned activists and prospective allies. Re-imagining American philanthropy and bringing about change in today’s world requires shifts in perspective, motivation and approach. To fail to do so is to squander an opportunity to bridge historical gaps and transform lives and communities for the duration of the 21st century.

In the same vein as the Movement for Black Lives, Black Philanthropy Month is an assertion that Black giving matters amid a preponderance of messages attempting, and too often succeeding, to convince us otherwise. A campaign established in 2011 and observed every August, Black Philanthropy Month promotes “informing, inspiring, involving and investing in Black philanthropic leadership.”

Disrupting philanthropy’s single story extends beyond August. Global in scope, a movement is underway to acknowledge, study, celebrate and strengthen African-descent giving in all its forms. In addition to the Giving Back Project and Black Philanthropy Month, a myriad of start-up and long-running organizations and initiatives are advancing the movement. These include the newly launched Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at Indiana University, Young Black and Giving Back Institute, African Diaspora Philanthropy Advisor Network, Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network, ABFE, blogs and social media platforms like the groundbreaking BlackGivesBack.com, and scores of Black giving circles and collective giving groups.

While slow on matters of race, American philanthropy has begun to reflect some insight on the plurality of giving cultures, as recognized with Jewish philanthropy and women’s philanthropy. The Black philanthropy movement is pressing for accelerated progress from inside and outside mainstream structures. My aspiration in this work is specifically to illuminate the vastness of beliefs, values, histories and mindsets that shape how and why people give. Consciously, re-centering philanthropy on love provides space for all of our stories and inspiration for everyone.

No matter your background or race, take a deep look at what motivates your giving. August observances of Black Philanthropy Month offer opportunities to learn, connect and engage with a cross-section of people. Seeing your community with fresh eyes, and then contributing to it with new understanding and in ways centered on love is work you can actually initiate at any time.

Come to see philanthropy differently. That’s the tagline for The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, and it precisely expresses the thing I hope for you.

— VF


Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida Fullwood brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer and project strategist. She is a founding member of Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists giving circle, author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and innovator for The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, which is traveling the country. You can follow her writing and pursuits via @ValaidaF and valaida.com.

 

Black Philanthropy Month 2018 | ‘For The Culture, For The Future’

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BPM 2018 Bounds Forward

The arrival of August kicks off Black Philanthropy Month (BPM). Established by Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson in 2011, BPM is a campaign to strengthen African-descent giving in all its forms.

“I hope people use BPM 2018 and this Wakanda moment to create a better future together,” says Copeland-Carson, a Bay Area social entrepreneur and researcher. “With all the stereotypes and negative news about our community, Black Philanthropy Month offers tools to envision a positive Black future, now.  Every August activates a cultural revival helping African-descent communities everywhere be the change we want to see.”

IMG_7426Global in scope, the annual campaign invites everyday people and a myriad of organizations to engage with self-organized events, charitable giving, targeted fundraising and voluntarism, educational programs, and community conversations. Among BPM 2018 happenings in the U.S. and abroad are a series of forums with philanthropic advisors and consultants from the African diaspora. Organized by Moore Philanthropy, the series launches in New York on August 7, followed by forums in Lagos and Nairobi.

In Norfolk, Hampton Roads Community Foundation is leading a panel discussion on August 16, in conjunction with an exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy. In Columbia, SC, Central Carolina Community Foundation is sharing local stories of Black philanthropy throughout the month and hosting a celebratory event on August 19. Other observances are planned in cities from San Jose to Chicago and from Phoenix to Chattanooga.

On August 28—a date steeped in historical significance, particularly for Black Americans—the Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization Young Black & Giving Back (YBGB) Institute is building on BPM’s momentum with Giving Black Day. It’s one day for concentrated giving to Black-led nonprofits that leverages online fundraising tools to tap into new generations of donors.

BPM architect and founder of Black Benefactors, Tracey Webb states, “Our collective action during August illuminates a culture of philanthropy and possibilities of a greater future, for us and by us.”

“It’s the best of times and also worrisome times for Black people,” asserts BPM architect Valaida Fullwood of the Giving Back Project. “There is no going back; instead, as somebody put it to me, it’s Black to the future!

Want to know how you can participate? Go to BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.


BPM Architects | Principal partners on the campaign are Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson of Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network, Tracey Webb of Black Benefactors and Valaida Fullwood of Giving Back Project.

2018 Campaign | BPM 2018 is a multimedia campaign to inform, involve, inspire and invest in Black philanthropic leadership. This year’s focal concept is “For The Culture, For The Future”.

Background | Founded by Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson of the Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network and recognized by the United Nations and Congress in August 2011, Black Philanthropy Month was created as an annual celebration of African-descent giving in the United States and worldwide.

Perennial Tagline | Giving augustly, year-round

Connect | Facebook.com/BlackPhilanthropyMonth

Hashtags| #BPM2018 #4culture4future

 

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Giving Voice

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Introducing the Black Philanthropy Month 2017 Poster

For the first time, a Black Philanthropy Month poster was commissioned to help inspire Black giving and advance our movement to shape 21st century philanthropy.

This inaugural piece was designed by artist Marcus Kiser and is available here free for downloads. The art poster conveys the BPM 2017 theme: Giving Voice to Fuel Change.

 

Coming Up in August: BPM 2017

BPM 2017 BannerBlack Philanthropy Month is a multimedia campaign to inform, involve, inspire and invest in Black philanthropic leadership. This year’s focal concept is Giving Voice to Fuel Change.


FROM THE BPM 2017 MEDIA RELEASE

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Moderator at a BPM 2016 event in NYC

Entering its seventh year of observance, Black Philanthropy Month (BPM 2017) is an unprecedented campaign during August to strengthen African-descent giving in all its forms.

Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson, founder of Black Philanthropy Month and Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network (PAWPNet) offers a litany of unjust events around the world and contends, “Black people are at a crossroads.” She further asserts, “This year we’ll celebrate our giving past while reviving Black giving as a collective movement for social change. Look for opportunities to join PAWPNet and support high-impact projects that, with your support, can build a better future in this new period of injustice and struggle for our communities everywhere.  Black giving matters!”

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Host of a BPM 2016 event in NYC

Attacks on our nation’s progress in areas of voting rights, LGBTQ equality, women’s health, criminal justice, educational opportunity, economic power and more are emblematic of what’s occurring around the globe. These assaults demand we give voice to injustice and, collectively, dedicate resources to turn the tide and assert our rights, interests and humanity.

As a campaign, BPM 2017 comprises activities—online and in communities—to inspire people to advocate and to give in strategic ways that transform policies, systems and lives for the better. The public is encouraged to participate by hosting self-organized events, charitable fundraising activities and community conversations. To spark ideas on how you can participate, visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

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Presenter at exhibit opening in Portland

BPM 2017 happenings that promote philanthropic investments and conscious giving in our communities are planned in cities, coast to coast. Included among these are a special exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture at the 2017 Association of African American Museums conference in Washington, DC, plus a pop-up exhibition at the University of Kentucky. Slated to spotlight philanthropy across the African Diaspora are gatherings in such communities as New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Atlanta and Columbia, SC. These and other observances led by foundations, nonprofit agencies, cultural institutions, giving circles, media and individuals will be featured on BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

Tracey Webb, founder of Black Benefactors and an architect of the annual campaign, says, “This year’s Black Philanthropy Month will inspire givers to ignite change at the local level, in addition to supporting initiatives nationally and internationally. Powerful shifts happen with collective action, and BPM 2017 is set to fuel connections and amplify voices that will shape our future.”


BACKGROUND

Founded by Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson of the Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network and recognized by the United Nations and Congress in August 2011, Black Philanthropy Month was created as an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving in the United States and worldwide. Principal partners on the campaign are Jackie Copeland-Carson, Tracey Webb and Valaida Fullwood. For a full listing of sponsors, visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

To stay connected, like the BPM Facebook page and follow these hashtags on social media: #BPM2017 #givingvoice


 

 

31 August Days

31 August Days Brady Bunch

Let me tell you about my giving circle!

Actually, let members of the circle tell you who they are and what we value in the slideshow below.

I value being a part of a group that embraces continual learning, awards grants to support philanthropic causes, engages diverse audiences to raise our collective consciousness,  advances social justice, seeks innovation and impact, explores a myriad of possibilities and supports each other while supporting our community.

For our 10th anniversary, members and friends of New Generation of African American Philanthropists engaged in #31AugustDays, a social media messaging campaign in observance of Black Philanthropy Month. The slideshow below is a compilation of the messages shared each day last month to elevate our culture of giving. An august group, celebrating an August of Black philanthropy. Enjoy! 

— VF

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Culture Is . . .

Black Philanthropy Month elevates a culture of giving! Read about past and upcoming happenings in Portland (OR), New York (NY), Columbia (SC) and other cities here.

See photos below from events coast to coast.


“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” 

— Jawaharlal Nehru

 

Source: Culture Is . . .

Celebrating Black Philanthropy Month and Our Collective History

SOURCE | Re-Blog from Philanthropy New York: Celebrating Black Philanthropy Month and Our Collective History

Yvonne L. Moore of Moore Philanthropy says she and Black colleagues share the deeply frustrating experience of having decisions, grant recommendations and analyses consistently questioned, unjustly critiqued and sometimes even undermined. READ MORE

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BPM 2016 | Week One Recap

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Black Philanthropy Month: Elevating A Culture of Giving

ELEVATEAugust Is Black Philanthropy Month!  Read all about it here: BPM 2016: Elevating A Culture of Giving

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Black Philanthropy Month 2016: Elevate Our Culture of Giving

BPM 2016 MAIN BANNER

The arrival of August will mark the start of Black Philanthropy Month (BPM). BPM is a multimedia campaign to inform, involve, inspire and invest in Black philanthropic leadership. As a campaign, BPM 2016 will comprise activities—online and in communities—to inspire people to give in conscious and more strategic ways.  This year’s focal concept and theme is Elevating A Culture of Giving. 

‘Our giving has always been seed capital for community change’

Jackie Copeland-Carson, PhD, founder of Black Philanthropy Month, notes, “Our giving has always been seed capital for community change. But with the pressing challenges facing us today, we need to do much more to strengthen our collective giving for the times. BPM 2016 kicks off a year-long revival of our community philanthropy. Black giving matters and we hope communities everywhere can join us to transform our future.”

During August and continuing throughout the year, the blog will highlight news, BPM Featured Events and more from communities across the country and globally.

‘Exercising the power of Black giving is my passion’

Tracey Webb, founder of Black Benefactors and former blogger at BlackGivesBack.com says, “Exercising the power of Black giving is my passion, and the stories illuminated every August remind me that there is solidarity and consequently I feel emboldened.”

To prepare for the launch of Black Philanthropy Month, be sure to do the following:

  • “Like” the Facebook page to follow posts and also use #BPM2016 for updates and happenings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
  • Go to the Shareables folder on Dropbox.com to download a current media release, social media badges, sample tweets, the BPM Participant Guide, and other items to help you engage with your peers, in your community, and across the world.
  • Use social media to tell us what you have planned for August, why Black giving matters, and how you’ll give during the month. Announce your BPM events via the online form.

‘Giving liberates the soul of the giver’

Revelations on philanthropy are the focus of Maya Angelou’s written piece, “The Sweetness of Charity”. Ushered in with Black Philanthropy Month is a spirit of generosity and a time for reflection. Below is a selection of readings to help inform your philanthropic thinking and practice. These poems, essays and short stories—many recommended by the Center for Civic Reflection—are provided for you to read and ponder personally, to read aloud as an opening or closing piece of a public program, or to focus on in a discussion group. Elevate your giving with reflection.

“The Sweetness of Charity” by Maya Angelou

“Last Will And Testament of Mary McLeod Bethune” by Mary McLeod Bethune

“The Lovers of the Poor” by Gwendolyn Brooks

“Rich Aunt” by Valaida Fullwood

“What I Learned from My Mother” by Julia Kasdorf

“The Drum Major Instinct” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The Four Traditions of Philanthropy” by Elizabeth Lynn and D. Susan Wisely

“The Lamb and the Pinecone” by Pablo Neruda

“When Giving Is All We Have” by Alberto Rios

“Full Circle” by Quentin Talley

“Truth Be Told” by Ava Wood

What informs your giving? Share your response on Facebook and Twitter using #BPM2016.

Black Philanthropy Month is generously supported by BPM 2016 Campaign Partners: The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation and The Give Black Foundation, along with a host of Institutional Sponsors.

Thank you,

#BPM2016 Architecture Team


Re-blogged from BPM365 via BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com. Proud and excited to be a part of the BPM Architecture Team, along with Jackie Copeland-Carson and Tracey Webb! — VF