Q&A: Black Philanthropy Month Founder Amplifies the Power of Black Donors
Though many before her have amplified Black giving, Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland founded and became the chief architect of Black Philanthropy Month, held annually each August. Now in its tenth year, the global campaign continues to boost Black giving, providing more power behind the efforts that includes fair access to private capital — both philanthropy and business investment — amidst the racial equity movement.
“Held during Black August, a 40-year-old annual commemoration of the influence of Black innovation and activism, Black Philanthropy Month reminds us of our collective power to build on our history to create a better future for our communities everywhere and the world even in challenging times like those of the COVID era,” she said via email.
In fact, after taking a closer look at Americans’ finances, the Urban Institute discovered that Black Americans donate more of their wealth than other racial groups — despite the racial wealth gap. Those findings show the trend of Black American families prioritizing philanthropy more than families of other racial groups dates back to at least 2010.
In the first Q&A installment of a two-part series looking at Black giving, Copeland, who also heads The Women Invested to Save Earth Fund, will discuss the importance of both Black American and immigrant donors to the nonprofit sector, and the impact of Black Philanthropy Month.
What types of causes do African Americans tend to support?
Black people support the full scope of philanthropic causes. Like most people, we support the causes that most impact us. Black American Philanthropy includes both the giving of African Americans and Black immigrants, who constitute about 10% of the Black American population.
The majority of African American giving goes to faith, education, youth, civil rights causes, and healthcare causes. While these are also the primary philanthropic interests of Black immigrants, global causes, including extended disaster recovery funding and other support to their hometowns are also prominent.
African Americans give about $11 billion a year. U.S. African immigrants — although they are a minority of the larger Black American population — give $12 billion in remittances, which are grants to individuals known and unknown to them. There is at least a $24 billion annual Black American giving economy with global impact, especially since Black immigrant giving is a significant proportion of the GDP of many African nations, far surpassing international aid from foreign funders.
Why do you think African Americans donate a higher percentage of their income to philanthropy compared to other American racial groups?
Giving and various forms of mutual support are hardwired in the culture and identity of African-descent culture everywhere, which is why we give such a high percentage of our income throughout the diverse countries of Africa and the global Black Diaspora. I created Black Philanthropy Month to highlight and strengthen our culture, identity, and collective power of giving to impact our communities’ and the world’s greatest challenges.
Unfortunately, the dominant funders have not reciprocated Black generosity. African American communities only receive 2% to 8% of foundation philanthropy and a paltry 1% of venture investments for our businesses. My hope is that, especially in this time of racial reckoning, dominant funders will fund our communities more fairly.
What’s next for Black Philanthropy Month?
Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) is celebrating its 10th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of Reunity, the influential women’s coalition I founded. Reunity is a global Black women’s funders network that co-organized our seminal 2011 inaugural global summit, which will be celebrated during our dual anniversary.
We invite everyone to join our final BPM anniversary celebration, a women’s philanthropy and power wellness rally held in collaboration with the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy. We will launch WPI’s new Black Women Give Back List, celebrate all the co-architects and volunteers who have contributed to Black Philanthropy Month’s success and honor all the world’s often unheralded Black women devoting their lives to strengthen our communities and the world. Reprising the “Being Well While Doing Good,” sub-theme of the original BPM summit, wellness coaches will provide support to promote financial, nutritional, emotional, cultural, and spiritual health for Black women and their allies. Featuring Rev. Naomi Tutu and Sunny Hostin of “The View,” The Reunity Summit is free and open to all.
Following the crises of 2020, BPM launched a global initiative and established 10 Black funding equity principles to promote racial equity in funding and post-COVID economic recovery for African-descent people. Funding groups and institutions of all backgrounds can adopt these principles by signing the pledge and each participating funder will receive a digital badge to publicly convey their support for the principles. Philanthropy Together signed the pledge, and I hope other institutions and organizations will follow suit.
For 2021 we’re taking it to another level and creating a multi-year funding equity action plan with various partners taking on responsibility for implementation. Our hope is to increase and measure Black funding’s collective impact, while holding dominant donor and investor institutions accountable for the funding equity. We urgently need to rebuild Black communities devastated by the COVID and racism pandemics. Until there is full financial inclusion and equity, we will not achieve our full human rights. Economic justice is the civil rights and liberation movements’ unfinished business. The time is now. As a global united front of donor activists, BPM will be at the forefront of making equity real. We’re currently conducting a survey to detect the best strategies to advance funding equity and welcome all suggestions.