by Susan Taylor Batten
There has been much written lately about the capacity of Black-led nonprofits and implications for foundation investment practices. In Philadelphia, the African American Leadership Forum released a report on African American nonprofits in that city titled “How African-American-Led Organizations Differ from White-Led Organizations. This report mirrors one shared last year by the Bay Area Black United Fund Black -Led Organziations in The Bay Area: From Crisis to Change on the conditions of Black nonprofits in that region. And most recently, and visibly, we have read about the practices of a major foundation in Chicago relative to their investments in Black communities.
The reports from Philadelphia and the Bay Area tell the story of Black nonprofits in those cities but across the country as well; when looking regionally or nationally, and in comparison to white-led organizations that support our community, Black-led organizations tend to be smaller, have smaller budgets and little to no cash reserves. In Philadelphia, It is important to note, that while Black-led organizations have less resources at hand, they tend to serve the most vulnerable in our community.
As advocacy increases in the field – and I hope that it does – I offer a very short “checklist” for foundations and donors to consider relative to their investments in the Black community:
- Are our funds supporting Black-led groups versus those serving the Black community whose leadership is not representative of the community? As I shared in an earlier blog, there is a real need for Black-led institutions that specifically and uniquely serve the Black community. Throughout our history, these institutions are the only way in which we have accumulated power to change the course of this country. Think about it, where would we be without HBCUs, the NAACP, SNCC, fraternities and sororities, etc.? Philanthropy played a role in supporting all of these institutions.
- Are our investments in Black-led groups primarily funding services and programs versus core operations that can help sustain infrastructure in our community? This is probably the oldest issue at hand. True, not all foundations will support core operations and we do need culturally-competent services funded. However, if you cannot hire quality staff, pay the rent or use up-to-date technology, you cannot help families.
- Do our resources help build the next generation of Black leaders for the sector? Whether it is ensuring leadership at the Board and C-suite- level of majority institutions, or at the grassroots level, these investments are well worth it.
These issues are not new but it is worth reiterating these points so that we can use this moment in time as an opportunity to move forward in the sector. Whether it is Chicago, the Bay Area or Philadelphia, a closer alignment with these values and principles would set us in the right direction. The good news? There is agreement across many of these regions about what foundations can do. We are aware of efforts to make this happen and will keep you posted.