Throughout the month of August, you may have seen articles, blog posts, and interviews in honor of Black Philanthropy Month, a global effort to elevate and celebrate Black and African-descent giving. As so much of our work at Fairmount Ventures is rooted in navigating and leveraging philanthropy to strengthen and support the missions of our clients – hundreds of incredible nonprofit organizations spanning the Greater Philadelphia region – these resources have sparked essential conversations about how we operate internally, and how we approach our work.
Philanthropy is a complicated system, which has as much potential to create moments of transformative healing and growth as it does to perpetuate inequity. Add in intersectional dynamics like systemic racism, income and education inequality, generational poverty, sexism, xenophobia, and capitalism, and you run the risk of prolonging an incomplete, damaging, and wholly untrue story – explicitly, that certain kinds of people who have lots of resources (wealthy white individuals and families) are responsible for supporting and saving certain kinds of people who do not (charities and the non-wealthy, non-white people they serve).
In our work to help nonprofits position themselves strategically and obtain funding from philanthropic sources, we search for individuals and foundations that are likely to offer support (both the right amount, and the right kind). We study their guidelines and frame requests that will rise to the top of the pile. We leverage connections and relationships that will help our clients stand out. And we support our clients as they steward philanthropic resources responsibly.
As a white-led consulting firm operating in a majority-Black city, it is Fairmount’s responsibility to develop and maintain an inclusive and current view of what it truly means to connect philanthropy and mission. In the spirit of acknowledging our privilege and naming the dynamics that perpetuate inequity in the sector, our charge is to help our clients navigate within (and benefit from) an imperfect system while pushing against the boundaries within it. This means educating ourselves about key topics, taking the lead from those closest to the communities they serve, and most importantly, using our privilege in responsible, progressive, and hopefully, reparative ways.
Thanks to the significant labor of writers, scholars, and leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, we’ve read articles and blog posts this month that elevate the power and influence of Black philanthropy, outline concrete strategies to infuse anti-racist actions into resource development, shed light on damaging, deeply-ingrained dynamics that perpetuate dysfunctional systems, and summarize information sources that allow fundraisers to consider the full spectrum of philanthropy.
Now, as we approach the inevitable “let’s get back to work” feeling that comes with cooler temperatures and shorter days, our team will challenge each other to hold on to the knowledge, processes, and ideas that Black Philanthropy Month offered to us well beyond August. To continue learning about how race affects the generational wealth and legacy giving that define philanthropy. To observe cultural differences in giving and look beyond tried-and-true sources of information, which may only tell part of the story. To confront the ways in which white supremacy culture overtly and covertly shows up, not just in our internal operations, but in our work with clients and throughout the sector.
To our colleagues in consulting and our partners in fundraising, start here. These resources have sparked conversations that will continue pushing us in the direction of greater equity, and we hope you’ll use them in the same way.
Helpful Articles & Perspectives:
African Americans have been philanthropists from Day One – Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
How Prospect Research Can Help Nonprofits Become Less Racist and More Inclusive – Community Centric Fundraising
Inclusive Language Principles for Grant Writers – Diversity Together
An Honest Conversation with a Black Fundraiser – A Researcher’s Diary
400 Years of Black Giving: From the days of slavery to the 2019 Morehouse graduation – Generocity (you can also find a roundup of Generocity’s Black Philanthropy Month coverage as it relates to the Philadelphia region here)
The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture – Showing Up for Racial Justice
Sources to Diversify Your Prospect Research:
Note: This post was co-written by and informed by the collective work of Fairmount’s staff-led Social Justice Committee, formed in response to the crisis of racism and threats to Black Lives facing our nation. Read our call to action and commitment.
BPM 2020 art poster courtesy of blackphilanthropymonth.com and artist Yétundé Olagbaju.