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The Importance of Organized Black Philanthropy:

A Conversation with Howard K. Hill, President & Chair of The Prosperity Foundation

According to a study conducted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, nearly two-thirds of Black households donate to community-based organizations and causes, to about $11 billion each year. Black households tend to give more of their discretionary income – as much as 25 percent more – to charitable causes than other segments of society. In addition to large gifts, black donors provide substantial small gifts, collective giving to Black families, churches, civic organizations and are making a broad impact.

Indiana University’s Assistant Professor Tyrone McKinley Freeman states that, “the African American church is still a bedrock institution in the philanthropic landscape. It is a place where, again, philanthropic values are taught and practiced on a regular basis. And it also is an institution that strives to respond to needs in the community." Black philanthropy has been a force for change for a long time, and greatly emanated through the Black Church. Without dedicated members and volunteers this could not have been accomplished.

Black leadership in philanthropy is key to engaging in authentic and informed grant making in communities of color. In addition to the Black Church, there are foundations aiming to make a difference in black communities. Howard K. Hill, founder of the Connecticut based The Prosperity Foundation ('TPF'), leads a foundation that embodies the drive of the Black Philanthropy movement, and seeks to emulate the giving nature of the Black Church. The facets targeted by TPF are education, economics and health where the goal is to build more capacity in black communities in Connecticut in which it was founded and throughout the nation. Hill envisions a more collaborative and strategic approach to black philanthropy by coordinating the many different organizations focused on black philanthropy, and in collaboration with other partners and organizations, direct their attention to specific areas within the community. “We are only 13% of the population of America,” states Hill, “and we have a tremendous spending power as a people, and philanthropic power. TPF is designed to capture the philanthropic power and direct it so that we can move our community forward.”

Hill acknowledges that the Black Church is the most longstanding and trusted institution within the realm of Black Philanthropy. He speaks of the distrust that some of the black community has in terms of philanthropic efforts, but he identifies that this does not appear to be the case when it comes to the church, since it has been embraced by black communities throughout the nation. Further he states that the Black Church has been the bedrock of major movements within the black community and has supported the black community throughout the many difficult times in the nation’s history. “The church has built the trust needed to be a very affluent and influential form of Black philanthropy. Organized philanthropy is fairly new and is one that the black community hasn’t as a people, fully embraced yet. Organized philanthropy the way that TPF envisions it still has ways to go to earn the community’s trust.” Hill emphasizes that TPF needs to stay focused on its mission and deliver.

Hill is encouraged and confident that TPF is well positioned to have deep seated conversations about the misdirection and misuse of resources often seen in certain philanthropic organizations, and to re-educate on ways to give. “We are creative as black people. We are the source. Imagine if we turn some of our efforts inward, how much more could we create for ourselves, how much more would we be able to heal our community.” Hill emphasizes the intentionality that is needed to effectively influence target communities as an organization. Moreover, he speaks to his vision of TPF being the organization for the black community. “TPF is working toward being the next organization that the black community rallies around and catalyzes behind to help to push the masses forward. Endowment is part of the solution that is designed to be in place permanently. TPF is designed to endow black progress.”

While Black Church Philanthropy has been a longstanding institution that embodies black giving and has impacted many communities' organizations such as TPF seek to emulate that spirit of Black giving, and scale into an ecosystem of organizations that work together to make investments in black communities. TPF aims to engage and incubate Black philanthropists to continue enhancing the vibrancy of our community. By establishing strategies for collaboration between fund holders, fostering new partnerships among Black philanthropists and nonprofit organizations with similar aspirations for serving the community; and seeking collaboration within corporate, civic/social organizations for greater visibility and awareness of funds established by and for Black and for the community. Through unrestricted, field of interest, scholarship, designated, agency endowment, and donor-advised funds, donors can impact black philanthropy in an organized way.

Hill shares his final thoughts and aspirations regarding The Prosperity Foundation. He closes out with a message for the coming Thanksgiving season: “Be gentle on yourself, on your family, on your community. We are one. We are all one. I would just say make sure you love your people. One of the ways that I think we could get down deep into this work is to value our ancestors. Say their names. They bled and died for us to be in this place today. We must value that. And say their names.”

This message reflects the very essence of giving, that we must reflect on tradition and history, and drive change in ways that represent unity and generosity. In that spirit, continue to support Organized Black Philanthropy!

See African American Psychology Fourth Edition 2019: From Africa to America by Fay Z. Belgrave and Kevin W. Allison.

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