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Let's Talk: Black Philanthropy

What is the role of philanthropy?

Let's start off with the basic definition of philanthropy. Philanthropy is defined as charitable acts or other good deeds aimed at eliminating social problems as a whole. Although they do parallel each other, charity is not the same as philanthropy. Philanthropy offers long-term solutions to systemic issues by targeting the societal problem at its roots. Philanthropy can be described as a more strategic force than a charity.

Philanthropy is more than just a donation. It is the effort an individual or organization takes to improve human welfare. The role of community-based philanthropy is to provide opportunities to underserved community members through funding various community-based projects. Philanthropy ensures that members of a population no longer have to experience the symptoms of certain societal problems. This is because the root problems of these societal issues have been addressed via the strategic nature of philanthropy.

A white male face has dominated the various representations of philanthropy in popular media. Due to this portrayal, Black philanthropists and philanthropic organizations headed by Black people have been pushed out of the limelight. The portrayal of philanthropy as being led by white males has forced society to look at philanthropy through the lenses of white males. By looking at philanthropy through such a narrow lens, the true purpose of philanthropy is not fulfilled. With Black philanthropists and philanthropic organizations headed by Black people pushed out of the limelight, the communities that these organizations and people represent are not getting their needs met. In fact, the white male face given to philanthropy is reminiscent of the white savior complex. It is important for the field of philanthropy to be open to new and more diverse faces to achieve philanthropy's true purpose, the elimination of social problems by targeting its root cause.

Breaking down the steps to be successful in Philanthropy

Here are some tips to help you be successful in Philanthropy:

  1. Foster honest relationships between yourself and the communities you want to help - By creating those relationships you are able to get a better sense of what the communities need. This will maximize the impactful possibilities of your philanthropy.

  2. Value feedback and communication - Feedback will be essential in philanthropy. Not every community that you desire to help may agree with what you believe will help them. Therefore, you have to engage in conversations with community members and take their feedback seriously.

  3. Be flexible - Whether it is the communities that you help or the needs of the communities, things will change. Flexibility is essential.

  4. Be aware of your impact - You can decide whether it is beneficial to continue or change the ways you engage in philanthropy.

How to build a model of Black Philanthropy

Learn: You can learn from other people and the philanthropies that they have already built. This will enable you to learn from the mistakes and successes of different philanthropies.

Listen: Like learning, listening will enable you to acquire feedback that may improve the way you interact with philanthropy.

Network: It is beneficial to work with other people outside of your immediate circle.

Innovate: Create new ways of participating in philanthropy. This will ensure that your philanthropy has a wider reach of different audiences.

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(Kaitlyn Taliaferro, 2021)

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