“Black people are the most generous people on this Earth.” That’s a paraphrase of one of my father’s many bits of socio-philosophical brilliance.
He usually uses it in reference to Black folks’ collective emotional generosity – how forgiving we can be in welcoming some Black celebrity back into our loving fold after some public transgression, even if amends haven’t been fully made. But we are also a people who are quite generous with our material and financial resources.
Black folks’ survival and progress have always been rooted in how well we cultivate Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) and Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). Many of us have never even considered adopting the title of “philanthropist.”
All the same, generations of church folks, sorority sisters/fraternity brothers, coaches, educators, mentors, activists, etc. have reliably identified our communties’ needs and valiantly employed ever-more creative fundraising to get those needs met. This, indeed, is precisely what philanthropy looks like.
While altruism can inspire us to be more strategic and impactful with our charitable dollars, mainstream non-profit organizations aren’t always the most accessible or welcoming to Black people as change agents or to our self-determined issues and concerns as philanthropic priorities.
A great way to navigate this murky space is to commit to learning more about smaller, local non-profit organizations or about local chapters of larger national groups like NAACP (www.naacp.org). These groups often afford increased access to staff and decision-makers, giving donors greater opportunity to learn about and influence organizational philosophy and greater confidence in the stewardship of funds raised.
Donors will also feel more rewarded – and encouraged to give more generously – when the impact of an organization’s work can be readily seen and felt in the donors’ communities.
Black folks can also consider joining a giving circle like The Black Benefactors (www.blackbenefactors.org), pooling resources with like-minded Black donors to increase the giving impact as well as gaining valuable insights about giving mechanisms and strategies for individuals and groups alike.
Black people have a broad and deep tradition of giving, from car washes that support a young neighbor’s college costs to multi-million dollar capital campaigns for sustaining our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We must continue to build on that tradition.
Guided by the generations-strong spirit of black charity, let’s combine insight from analyzing structures and systems that affect our well-being at every level with the power of organizing and collective action.
Let’s pledge to talk more frequently and intentionally with loved ones about organizations known for their dedication Black people’s advancement and about how we can pool resources to sustain and influence that good work.
With eyes on the prize of Black freedom, here are some organizations to learn about:
Any of the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (refer to United Negro College Fund for a list)
– By Guest Contributor: Nzinga Tull