Three Reasons Why It’s Necessary for Philanthropy to Engage Black Americans | npENGAGE

Three Reasons Why It’s Necessary for Philanthropy to Engage Black Americans

By on Mar 5, 2015


It’s 2017 in case you missed the memo. We’re more than fifty years past the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and The 1965 Immigration Act, two monumental acts of legislation that changed the way black Americans and immigrants of color were recognized in this country. More than fifty years later when just 62.6% of Americans are non-Hispanic whites, Americans of color still struggle for their voice in many areas of society, namely philanthropy.

The underrepresentation of African-Americans and Hispanics suggests that organized philanthropy is not doing an adequate job of engaging non-white communities  Diversity in Giving

But why or how can this be? Don’t non-profits and foundations realize they need diverse individuals’ help to solve society’s most pressing issues? As a black millennial the answer to this question seems obvious to me, but for many organizations it is not so black and white. Pun intended.

So, here are my top three reasons nonprofits need to engage African American donors for support:

#1: If You Ask, You Will Receive

As the old saying goes, “A closed mouth won’t get fed.” Well, there are many non-profit organizations that are not getting “fed,” aka supported by African American donors. In Diversity in Giving, twenty percent of African Americans surveyed, compared to nine percent of all donors, agreed with the statement, “I would support more nonprofits if I was asked more often.”In my own research, 48% of black millennials surveyed said non-profits don’t do enough to engage them.

So which nonprofits should be engaging African Americans?

Diversity in Giving reports that more than any other group, African Americans are interested in supporting their unique heritage and community. African American donors favor social service organizations(40%), children’s welfare organizations(37%) and health organizations(37%). Therefore, when non-profits in these cause areas argue black donors don’t give, the first step to a solution is to simply: ask.

#2: Black Millennials Will Be Your Ticket to the Next Generation of Black Philanthropy

Black Americans giving to their communities has been documented since at least the eighteenth century. While actions of time, talents and treasures may not have been called “philanthropy,” they clothed, fed and funded generations of blacks. As such, black millennials are following in the footsteps of those who have come before them. Millennials are not only the most diverse generation to date, research proves that they give in greater numbers than any other generation before them. They are leading, volunteering and donating to causes that matter to them and impact their communities. 92% of black millennials surveyed in 2013 responded that they spent time volunteering. 65% of those same black millennials donated more than $100 in one year. Where does your organization fit? Don’t miss out on your opportunity to capture the giving of nextgen black millennials.

#3: Small Donations Equal Big Results

Diversity in Giving reports, African American donors tend to give to nonprofits in smaller ways such as toy and food drives and donations at grocery store registers. The Network Journal reports, that today African-Americans give 25 percent more of their income per year than whites and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s 2012 “Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Color” report shows nearly two-thirds of African-American households donate, giving $11 billion each year. That said, nonprofits should not discount the small gifts of African American donors. Finding ways to meet black donors where they are and leverage all gifts, whether large or small, will begin to establish relationships necessary for long-term sustainability.

According to Rockefeller Philanthropy’s most recent diversity roadmap report, “in philanthropy, tapping into diverse thinking is common sense.” However, like my mother always tells me, “if it were common sense, everyone would use it.” Everyone is not using diversity or millennials as a tool for increased engagement and more effective results.

Philanthropy has a problem and it is long overdue to address it.

As long as the fundraising community remains disproportionately white, we are unlikely to reach all Americans who are waiting -and wanting- to help those in need — Diversity in Giving

I could not have said it better myself.


Ebonie Johnson Cooper is a millennial diversity consultant, Chief Millennial Officer at Friends of Ebonie, and a social media strategist. She uses her research, thought leadership, and expertise on young black philanthropy to serve as a bridge connecting civically engaged black millennials to public sector organizations. Follow Ebonie on Twitter @ejcthatsme.

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