Moving Money for Racial Equity: A Challenge to Philanthropy-Serving Organizations in the Field

ABFE Friends and Supporters:

While these are trying times, philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) possess a unique opportunity. Given the leadership of several funders, PSOs are receiving substantial support to help their members adopt a racial equity frame in their work. Activities range from organizing ongoing learning and training series for their foundation members to regional multi-sector efforts that extend beyond philanthropy on racial equity. It seems PSOs, by leveraging the power of their members, are vital to the field’s most current emphasis—advancing racial equity. But as the saying goes, “there is no rest for the weary”; and I want to raise the bar a bit higher!

Earlier this year, ABFE had the opportunity to provide racial equity training to the board and staff of a PSO in the D.C. area. Several weeks after the engagement, I received a call from the organization and learned that the training inspired them to put some of their operating funds into a local Black-owned bank. I was thrilled to hear this! When I shared this story at another meeting, I learned that a PSO in the pacific northwest—who is very focused on equity—also had made a deposit into a Black bank. The leadership of these two groups illustrate that PSOs can do so much more than convene funders, host trainings and provide technical assistance for their members. It suggests that we can also move money, just like foundations do, for equity.

Just imagine if all the PSOs in an area, like Washington D.C (that is headquarters for approx. 10 PSOs), decided to make investments into minority-owned banks. These banks are critically important as they tend to be more accessible to lower-wealth communities and specifically cater to populations who are detached from the conventional banking system. For example, the disproportionately high number of African-Americans who are disconnected from mainstream financial services is a target market for Black-owned banks. Many in our community are “unbanked” with no checking or savings accounts, and often rely heavily on check cashers, pawn shops, payday lenders or other high-cost, “predatory” options. Black-owned banks are present in neighborhoods that are void of financial institutions and can provide access to safe, accessible and affordable bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages and business loans.

As several PSOs prepare to convene in Boston next week at United Philanthropy Forum’s 2018 annual conference, I pose this question: What if, just like our foundation members, we decided to move our own “place-based” initiative? We can model this for our foundation members. Every PSO can do this; every regional association should invest some of their funds in a minority-owned bank in their region; and, national associations should do this as well. To get started, check out the National Bankers Association (NBA), a trade group for minority and women-owned banks in the country, to find an institution near you. Get familiar with the NBA and learn more on how they support communities of color. With a few champion PSOs leading the way, let’s do more than training and convening…let’s move money for racial equity.

All the best,

Susan Taylor Batten
President and CEO, ABFE