First of all, thank you so much for the great comments you've been submitting. It appears we are meeting a need by providing a forum for people who want to know more, but who may be underserved. Change is in the air and it's transforming how people view African-American philanthropy.
On February 11, 2011, the Foundation Center-Cleveland presented a panel discussion that I moderated with Teri Eason and Dr. Stephen Rowan from The Cleveland Foundation. Over 40 people signed up and attended this live-streamed program (thanks WVIZ), and a diverse audience asked insightful questions.
Three things from the discussions really stood out for me:
(1) The word "philanthropy" seems to be a barrier to some people as it conjures up an image of "old wealth and white money." In-person forums and ones like this blog can help dispel that and make room for new perspectives. One attendee felt that we in the industry (the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, Inc, and The Cleveland Foundation) should figure out how to bring philanthropy "down-to-earth" for the average person with a middle income who wants to give, but who thinks that what he or she has to give is too small to make a difference.
(2) While I listened to audience members express the desire for more accessibility from foundations, I thought to myself, "Have you ever taken the next step in exploring how to contribute to the United Black Fund or the Cleveland Foundation?" You see, it starts with you, with me. As an individual I can consider my giving options at the same time my organization is looking to foundations for grants and support. A two-way street is essential to a building a robust philanthropic economy and ultimately a vibrant community. I can be a donor and a recipient. Donations of many kinds at any level can go a long way in rebuilding our community.
So, let's get proactive about philanthropy. For example, when we walk past an old playground in our old neighborhood that has fallen into disrepair, let's not simply shake our heads and continue to walk by, but begin to think about what we can do to make this place a playground again. We can change things if we become participants in philanthropy's power to transform. It happens one person at a time. Raising money to get new playground equipment happens one dollar at a time - a thousand people contributing one dollar each is a thousand dollars. The impetus for making this happen can start with one person, someone like you or me. This brings me to my next and final point for now.
(3) Education is the key to becoming proactive, and this forum is a great place to start. Organizations like the United Black Fund of Cleveland, The Cleveland Foundation, and the Foundation Center can help you to learn about giving, fundraising, foundations, and nonprofits, so when you walk past that playground and feel the impulse to make change you know where to turn.
As we build a new paradigm for African-American philanthropy, let's look at our personal ability to do some strategic giving for sustained impact that can last for years to come.
And, thanks to readers Mary Claire and Jeanne for sharing these resource that will help us get there:
Share with us how your thinking about African-American philanthropy is shifting and your ideas for getting involved. Leave a comment.
--Celeste E. Terry, MSSA