Black people are often portrayed as recipients of philanthropy. August turns things around, reminding the world that people of African descent are busy giving and building philanthropic traditions and institutions. Giving starts at home as we support our family members, helping out wherever and whenever we can. We also give as individuals and families. We give through our workplaces and to our places of worship. We give of our time and talents. We give through giving circles and at family reunions. And we direct giving as program officers and CEOs of philanthropic foundations.

With this column we share information about Black people working in philanthropy – individuals who direct where and how charitable resources flow.

We have had the opportunity to work closely with ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities, participating in their last three conferences, and meeting program officers and CEOs from across the country. These are Black professionals who direct millions and millions of dollars for a living. We know we never had a career counselor or mentor sit down with us to suggest “philanthropy” as a career path. But we can encourage you to look at the philanthropic sector as a place to bring your skills and grow your career.

The philanthropic sector (public and private foundations) employs analysts, CPAs, researchers, technologists, and plenty of people with liberal arts and social science backgrounds. Attorneys find a home within the sector as do administrative assistants, community organizers, writers, big thinkers, and detailed folk. There is a place for everyone.

ABFE brings together people from across the philanthropic sector to focus on the needs of Black communities. They advocate for increased participation of Black people on foundation boards, the place where direction and giving priorities are established. They offer cohorts, conferences, and training sessions to help Black people – including Black women – develop their careers. They believe that Black people need to be represented within all levels of philanthropy, and importantly that Black people within philanthropy can help ensure dollars are equitably directed to Black communities.

They are bold, and they have a big impact. This spring they brought together Black CEOs from over 60 philanthropic foundations to issue a call to action on Anti-Black Racism. Listen to their words: “As the Black community struggles to manage these overlapping pandemics (COVID19 and racism), we challenge philanthropy to be bold and be inspired by the courage of the protestors who are risking their well-being for the sake of defending Black lives.”

Their 10 point call to action includes increasing investments in Black-led organization, pushing for structural change, increasing giving through use of endowed funds, engaging Black businesses, lifting up gender, reaching out to Black communities beyond the continental U.S., and addressing disparities in prisons.

We encourage you to consider a career in philanthropy. We thank you for your philanthropy. And we remind you to apply for grants: there really are people within foundations who believe in you and your nonprofit.

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