Part 2 of Our Black Philanthropy Month Interview with Valaida Fullwood
In this second half of our interview with Valaida Fullwood, an architect of Black Philanthropy Month and award-winning author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, we discuss her work in more depth, the theme of this year’s Black Philanthropy Month, and how people can get started on their journey as philanthropists.
Read part one of our interview here.
Did anything surprise you from the different stories you came across while creating Giving Back?
"One of the surprising things was the true intergenerational or multi-generation aspect of the giving stories. When I set out to write the book, I had presumed that when I’d ask people, ‘who influences your giving,’ in those tribute stories, people would probably refer to an elder or an ancestor—someone who had passed on. While that was often the case, there were a number of stories where it was peer like a spouse or a friend who influenced someone’s giving, and then also instances where it was a teen or a child whose examples of giving had influenced the adult’s giving. There was a range of inspirational stories about people of all ages."
Do you think that with people highlighting their peers as examples of givers and philanthropists it makes the idea of being a philanthropist more accessible?
I hope so—and in fact, that’s part of the driving force behind the whole book. For all the elders and ancestors who we recognize as givers, many times they didn’t see themselves as that or didn’t think anybody was paying attention, or didn’t realize what they were doing was influencing someone else’s giving. I think that regardless of age or generation, lifting up those stories and showing the different acts, deeds, and generosity illustrated in the book can influence people and has influenced people. Hopefully having a collection of those stories in Giving Back will influence whole generations, now and in the future.
What advice would you give to Black people who want to become philanthropists, or give back to the community but don’t know quite where to start?
“This is something I often share: philanthropy is deeper than your pockets. That’s important for institutional philanthropy and fundraisers to know and also everyday people in communities to know, because I think that’s where philanthropy rests now in many people’s minds—that it’s all about your financial wealth—but it’s really deeper than that. Wealth can be assessed in myriad ways.
Through a lot of my work and experiences with my giving circle, New Generation of African American Philanthropists, we find that the most potent philanthropy is a combination of bringing your head, hands, heart, and soul together and giving consciously. Your head: bringing your mind, the analysis, the research, the strategy, the serious thinking that is required. Then there are your hands and all the things your hands can do—from writing a check, to driving someone to that doctor’s appointment that I mentioned before, or patting somebody on the back, or helping somebody up; all the things your hands can do, literally and figuratively, and actions you can take.
As for your heart, you cannot deny what moves you and what you feel strongly about. And then the fourth element is your soul, and for us that means the core of who you are, your identity. So the most potent philanthropy is really using a combination of all of that to determine how and where you give.
For example, for me there are numerous aspects to who I am: as a woman, as a Black person, as an American, as a Southerner, all of those things factor into how and why I give. I find that if people approach it that way, their giving can be as strategic and powerful and transformative as a Bill Gates philanthropic initiative or an Oprah Winfrey giveaway."
The theme of this year’s Black Philanthropy Month is “Let’s make history.” What is the significance of this theme, and how do you see people responding to it?
"Black Philanthropy Month every year is meant to be a call to action—it’s opening the door and inviting people to think intentionally during the month of August and for the whole year long about why and how they give to create the world and the communities they want to see.
This year in part because of the commemoration of 400 years of documented Black life in America I think it’s really incumbent upon us to pause and think about our ancestors and those first Africans who arrived on these shores, and all the uncertainty and fear and things they may have experienced then and in subsequent generations. And yet, the world they created that we live in today, and the opportunities and access that we have, I think are all influenced by steps and choices they made in generations prior. So this August is meant to call upon us to think about the choices we make, the gifts we make, how we engage and practice our philanthropy and what impact it could have on people, Black people, the world, 4 years from now, or 40 years from now or 400 years from now.
When we say, “let’s make history”— what we are doing today is shaping what people will look back at as history. I also think it’s poignant to realize that it was in fact in August 1619 that those first Africans arrived in Virginia. That’s 400 years to the month that that historical event took place; and now during August 2019, we’re celebrating Black Philanthropy Month—an acknowledgement of their value to us and their values."
Where can people find and purchase your book, Giving Back?
"Folks can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order, whether it’s an individual book or bulk order.
I always want make note that the book really does give back, every book purchased goes back to support the giving circle that I’m a part of, New Generation of African American Philanthropists."
Black Philanthropy Month, celebrated in August, was created in 2011 by Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland and the Pan-African Women's Philanthropy Network (PAWPNet) as an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving.