ABFE Celebrates Black Philanthropy Month (BPM)

Hello ABFE Members and Friends:

August is Black Philanthropy Month (BPM)—an exciting project that we have had the opportunity to support over the last several years. Our heartfelt thanks go out to its founder, Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland, and architects Tracey Webb and Valaida Fullwood for ensuring that the legacy of giving by our community lives and is recognized every year!

As we celebrate another BPM, we are at an interesting place in the field of philanthropy. Now more than ever before, the foundation sector is organizing to assess how investments and grantmaking can be a bold catalyst for change by using a lens of race and equity. Trustees, CEOs, and philanthropy serving-organizations (PSOs) are in robust learning conversations, peer exchanges and discussions on centering racial equity in the sector’s work. And while these conversations are instrumental in advancing the field, it’s simply not enough in today’s crowded philanthropic landscape that requires disruptive approaches to maximize impact. Additionally, it requires we take a closer look at different models and examples that are already underway and producing impactful results in Black communities.

ABFE’s annual conference, Harambe! Let’s All Pull Together, in Detroit reaffirmed the opportunities available to do more meaningful work when foundations see and support us. For example, do you know about the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative? How about the Common Good Initiative in Lincoln Park? Or Russell: A Place of Promise? These are just a few foundation-sponsored efforts we spotlighted at our conference for their work in building Black wealth. We had over 30 sessions: from highlighting investments to address the education and health of our communities, to supporting Black immigrant families, to fighting violence and gentrification in our neighborhoods. Today, while funders engage in these discussions about the concepts of race and racism, we need to ensure that they also learn about existing and evolving solutions like those showcased at our conference. We need to lead our conversations about racial equity grantmaking to achieve the results we have in mind. We need to spread the word about policy and system-change initiatives, as well as organizations doing compelling work. Let’s continue to lift them up and direct more resources to this work. I worry that we are so focused on bringing attention to issues around racism and diversity in the sector that we’re overlooking the critical work already happening, and the opportunity to expand it for greater impact. As we lift-up anti-Black racism, let’s bundle solutions with problems so that foundations and donors of all types have a path forward. ABFE will be more intentional in doing so but we need your help.

BPM 2019 is also an opportunity to share information about our upcoming priorities. We are moving forward with new leadership at the Board level—I’m pleased to announce that Karen McNeil Miller (President, Colorado Health Foundation) and Cedric Brown (Chief Foundation Officer, Kapor Center) were recently elected as Chair and Vice Chair of the ABFE Board of Directors respectively. They take the reins of the Board at a pivotal time leading up to our 50th anniversary in 2021. As we move towards this semicentennial, our plans are to double down on efforts to move resources to Black-led social change organizations. We believe this will require a stronger, more diverse philanthropic network to activate investments for substantive change. ABFE will need your help in introducing diverse donors to our work (namely Black donors, Black family foundations, as well as impact investors) and ensuring that all donors and grantmakers are informed of the amazing work happening by Black-led organizations—who with more investments can facilitate substantive change for our community.

The BPM calendar of events highlights several great activities happening across the country. Please look out for a few more major events for ABFE members and supporters later this month and throughout the year: our Women in Philanthropy Retreat for foundation C-suite leaders and select guests (August 22 – 24); our annual Leverage the Trust Retreat for Black foundation trustees (September 26 – 28); and our Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program Leadership Summit (October 27 – November 1). We will also hold special events at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference (September 11-15); the Southeastern Council of Foundations’ Annual Meeting (November 13 – 15); and the CHANGE Unity Summit (November 19 – 21).

In these unpredictable times, the divisive leadership coming out of Washington, D.C. reminds us that our philanthropy and giving has helped us survive as a people. In celebration of who we are, happy Black Philanthropy Month!

Susan Taylor Batten
President and CEO, ABFE