Black Philanthropy Month: Giving Augustly Of Time, Talent, Treasure

According to a 2012 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Report, nearly two-thirds of African Americans make charitable donations, giving about $11 billion each year. Blacks give a greater percentage of their disposable income—nearly 9 percent—than any other racial group in America. Blacks also participate in giving circles at higher rates than other groups according to a Connected to Give publication based on the National Study of American Religious Giving. Giving circles' focus on community and impact have made them especially popular among philanthropic Black Americans. Notable examples include Friends of Ebonie for Black millennials in New York City, the Charlotte-based New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP) and the Ujima Legacy Fund, a giving circle of Black male professionals in Richmond, Virginia and others.

Supported by national networks like the Community Investment Network (CIN), these giving circles explicitly strive to formalize and publicize Black giving in order to change the prevailing narrative that philanthropy is primarily for the wealthy, elite, and white. When Ujima co-founder Reggie Gordon became interested in humanitarian work, he observed that "a lot of the people served by the [social service] agencies were Black, but the donors were not" and then set out to alter that landscape. After all, African American philanthropy is based on a long tradition of giving time, talent and treasure. CIN Founder Darryl Lester explains that in his childhood, "the tenets of racial uplifting and mutual aid were an organic way of life for those who gathered together for rent parties, communal day-care and collecting resources for family needs under the simple auspices of 'neighbors helping neighbors," long before the jargon associated with community philanthropy arrived.

Valaida Fullwood of NGAAP documents this history in her award winning book Giving Back. Recently, a touring exhibit of the book's contents was launched with a grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services. Entitled Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, the tour will deliver a new narrative of Black philanthropy. Giving Back includes inspiring first-person narratives of Black philanthropists, as well as references to the unique history of Black American philanthropy in the United States. An apt example is this quote Martin Luther King Jr., which all philanthropists might do well to keep in mind: "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary."

August is Black Philanthropy Month (BPM), spotlights inspiring giving practices by African Americans and the wider African diaspora. The African Women's Development Fund USA founded BPM in 2011 during the United Nations' International Year for People of African Descent as "an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving." The theme for BPM 2014 is "Generosity at Home and Around the Globe."