A celebration of African American philanthropy

black history monthAh, yes. It is February 28th once again, which signifies the end of another successful Black History Month.  While on the treadmill this morning, I scratched my head and wondered how we got to the end of February so quickly. My mind also wandered back to an old training curriculum that I used to use that was titled “Changing with the Times: Adapting Fundraising to a New United States“.

I went back and dusted off this curriculum because there are a few tidbits I think are appropriate to share on this last day of Black History Month.

Institutions built

Racial stereotypes are so dehumanizing. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve talked to throughout my career who obviously view the African American community as “recipients” of philanthropy and not “participants”. You don’t need to look any further than the following organizations to understand how incorrect those stereotypes actually are:

  • Urban League
  • The African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Tuskegee Institute

What do these three institutions have in common? They are the result of African American philanthropy, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Not just an Amen!

bill cosbyHere’s another racial stereotype for you. Throughout my career, I’ve met many people who assume that African Americans only support their churches when it comes to philanthropy. Again, this just isn’t true. According to a 2002 report published by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the following is a list of giving priorities for the African American community:

  1. Education
  2. Public Affairs / Social Benefit
  3. Children & Youth
  4. Arts & Culture
  5. Health
  6. Other
  7. Human Services
  8. Religion

Huh? Go figure. Religion came in behind the category labeled “Other”.

To help put this list in context, more than half of respondents said “education” was their highest priority compared to approximately 5% who said “religion”.

Not just Buffet and Gates

oprahTry playing this fun game with your friends. Ask them to close their eyes and blurt out the first name that comes to mind when you say the word “philanthropist”. I’ll bet that the most common responses will be Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and even Donald Trump (gosh darn Celebrity Apprentice).

In reality, the African American community has (and had) more than its fair share of awesome philanthropists including:

  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Michael Jackson
  • Bill Cosby
  • Tom Joyner
  • Russell Simmons
  • Magic Johnson
  • Wyclef Jean

Did you know?

I thought it would be fun to end this post on a really positive note. So, I dug really deep in that old training curriculum for a few of those “OMG . . . I didn’t know that” type of factoids (most of which came from the Kellogg Foundation report):

  • “According to an analysis of IRS records by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, African Americans with $50,000+ income give a higher percentage of discretionary income than most Americans.”
  • “Most African Americans give to multiple causes and most giving is local (79%).”
  • “African American donors seem to forgo endowment building in favor of donating time and money to assist with more immediate community needs.”

Did anything here surprise you? Do you have any fun stories that you’d like to share on this final day of Black History Month? Do you have any special strategies or tactics in your written resource development plan focused on philanthropy and this community? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC