There were 13.2 million black households in the United States in 2001,constituting 12.4 percent of all households in the country. Within these households, income, wealth and charitable giving have risen at a steady rate in recent years.
This according to “Wealth Transfer Estimates Among African-American Households,” a recently released report by researchers at the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, authored by Paul Schervish and John Havens.
The report also looks at statistical patterns and trends in income, wealth and philanthropic giving in black households, and examines blacks’ ability to make charitable gifts and leave bequests during the 55-year period from 2001 through 2055.
What’s more, the study estimates that the total amount of wealth to be transferred from black households through estates during this period will range between $1.1 trillion and $3.4 trillion.
Perhaps the most compelling findings from this study as it relates to nonprofit fundraisers is data that show that in the period from 1992 through 2001, income and wealth for black households have risen at an annual rate of 4 percent and charitable giving has risen at an annual rate of 5 percent. These statistics show black households are giving to charity at a faster rate than their income and wealth accrue.
Motivations for giving
While the report found the amount of wealth possessed by black households is limited compared with all other households, and thus limits their wealth transfer, charitable bequests and overall charitable giving, there’s no doubt that African-Americans are motivated to give.
The Donor Research Project, a research initiative conducted at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at the City University of New York Graduate Center in conjunction with the Coalition for New Philanthropy in New York, analyzed why and to whom blacks give through face-to-face interviews with 58 black donors in New York from 2002 to 2003.
Often divided based on age between those born in or before 1963 and those born after, the donors surveyed were almost unanimously motivated by a desire to effect social change.
The majority (45 percent) of pre-civil rights blacks focused their philanthropy on the black community, while the majority of the younger blacks surveyed focused giving on communities of color, minorities and the underprivileged.
Churches were selected most likely to receive one of the top gifts from older black donors, with more than half (55 percent) giving to a local church or religious appeal. According to Felinda Mottino and Eugene Miller, authors of “Philanthropy Among African-American Donors in the New York Metropolitan Region: A Generational Analysis,” one of a selection of articles compiled in the book “Exploring Black Philanthropy” edited by Patrick Rooney and Lois Sherman, which summarizes the project’s finding, “Many African-Americans made it clear they see the church not only as a religious and spiritual place but also as a center for community development.”
Educational organizations were the next most common recipients of charitable gifts from older black donors, but were the most popular recipients among the younger set. Mottino and Miller report that about one-third of younger blacks gave to their alma maters. Churches also were recipients of the largest gifts made by this segment, though to a lesser extent than the older donors.
International programs, chiefly those located in Africa and the Caribbean, were recipients of large gifts by both age groups.
The project found more of a propensity in the older black donors to make political contributions, with more than half saying they made a contribution in the past year, compared to only 20 percent of the younger generation.
Notable motivating factors behind giving for old and young reported by Mottino and Miller included giving back to the community, feeling connected to something beyond themselves and a sense of satisfaction when giving to charity.
Step by step
In her article, “Hopscotching in the Neighborhood,” also appearing in Rooney and Sherman’s book, Alice Green Burnette warns about the pitfalls of skipping steps when trying to raise money in the black community. Some key things to remember, Burnette says, include:
- Understand that society is changing. The black population is expected to grow from 36 million in 2000 to 61 million by 2050, representing 14.6 percent of the total population (U.S. Bureau of the Census). As a segment it already is being targeted by companies promoting products and services. Nonprofits should react and catch on to this shift.
- Progressive messaging raises more money. Burnette says nonprofits used to gain support in the black community on the basis of need and mere existence, but this message is no longer sufficient, especially in the increasingly competitive nonprofit field.
- Donor focus. Fundraisers who focus on the needs and interests of prospects will have more success than those who focus on the organization’s needs.
- Recognize history. Gain a better understanding of black prospects’ life experiences. Exclusion and deception, and resulting trust issues, and issues like incarceration, poverty and addiction that often pervade minority neighborhoods are part of the black life experience.
Some other characteristics to keep in mind include findings from the “Wealth Transfer Estimates Among African-American Households” report that show black households are less likely to be headed by a married couple; heads of households tend to be younger; less than half own a home; and only 3 percent own one or more businesses.
Schervish and Havens, authors of the “Wealth Transfer Estimates” report, suggest the following strategies for nonprofits seeking to increase charitable giving among black households:
- Target black households of celebrities, athletes and business owners to increase the visibility of giving and inspire giving among others.
- Come up with a long-term strategy for cultivating young black professionals and business owners who are on the road to wealth.