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Black Philanthropy Month: Spotlight on Katrena Perou, Part I

For Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) we are highlighting stories of those who are committed to informing, inspiring, and investing in Black communities. Through a series of spotlights, we will explore the various ways leaders are celebrating and emphasizing the importance of investing in Black leadership from within the Black community in Brooklyn and beyond. 

Our first spotlight is on Katrena Perou, Executive Director of Inspiring Minds NYC and Donor Advised Fund holder with Brooklyn Community Foundation. 

Image Caption: Katrena Perou outside of Boys and Girls High School Campus, which includes Research & Services High School and Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice, in Bedford–Stuyvesant. Image courtesy of Katrena Perou.

What do you love about Brooklyn?

There’s a really strong sense of community in Brooklyn. I love the fact that no matter where you stand, you can experience every single culture within a five block radius. I love the block parties over the summer. My children and I could just barely walk down the street and run into two or three block parties—and no matter which one you walked into, people would welcome you, give you food, as if they’ve known you all along. 
 
I spend most of my time in Bedford–Stuyvesant—and I really like how proud people are with the history of where they came from, and seeing how important it is for people to preserve those stories that have been there for so many years in Bed–Stuy.
 

How did you become involved with Brooklyn Community Foundation?

I have my own nonprofit, Inspiring Minds NYC, and I actually learned about Brooklyn Community Foundation when someone recommended it to me as a funding source. When I was on the website looking for opportunities to see how we could partner together, I ran across the page about the Donor Advised Fund program, which is something that I was also already researching. I had no idea that the Foundation had that as a service—so it went from me looking for funding to then looking at how I could give funding, which is pretty funny.

What does giving mean to you?

Both my parents taught me the importance of giving at least 10% of whatever I earn—and I've always done that since I was a kid. If I made $100, I gave $10. As I got older, and made more money, I always stuck to the 10% rule. That's one of those beliefs I never compromised.
 
My father was a preacher and, for those who go to church, 10% is your tithes. As I got older, I decided that I still wanted to keep the tradition of giving 10%, but instead of giving it to the church I wanted to give to nonprofits or people that I saw were doing the work in the community for children and families. I still believe in giving and the importance of giving.
 

Why a Donor Advised Fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation?

I sold the house I had in Bedford–Stuyvesant this past year because I was transitioning from my past job and wanted to build my own nonprofit, and the funds from the house help me to be able to do my work full time. But again, here's where the 10% rule came in—I made a profit from the house and I wanted to give 10%. I was trying to figure out what was the right, structured way, where I could donate the money in a way that will be helpful to my community. I kind of sat on it for a while. I spoke to a financial planner once I got the profit from my home and he actually recommended a Donor Advised Fund as a different way of giving
 
Then I saw the Donor Advised Fund option at Brooklyn Community Foundation, and it just made sense. I thought, “This is perfect.” I wanted to donate and give back to Brooklyn, and that's what Brooklyn Community Foundation is all about—they provide a structure and support for you to do that with your Donor Advised Fund.
 

What advice would you give to someone who is considering opening a Donor Advised Fund as a way to invest in Brooklyn?

I think it’s hard to be able to authentically serve people if you’re not aware of their journey from their own perspective. The advice I would give is for people to actually spend time in the communities that you want to support, to get to know the people and understand who the leaders are. Once you get to know the people that you want to support, that helps to provide wisdom into how to use your funds.
 
Often donors and donor advisors are attracted to the big nonprofits, the glitz and glamor type of multimillion dollar nonprofits—and those nonprofits are great and do a lot of great work, but they're already prioritized as it relates to the philanthropic world and funding. People usually want to give to brand recognition and organizations that have that kind of stability. But try to step outside of your comfort zone and think about the nonprofits that don't have that yet, and are marginalized and disenfranchised from the same kind of funding that those larger nonprofits get—oftentimes your funds can go a lot further with them.
 

Black Philanthropy Month, celebrated in August, was created in August 2011 by Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland and the Pan-African Women's Philanthropy Network (PAWPNet) as an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving.

Jameela Syed

Development and Communications Associate (She/Her/Hers)
"I think it’s hard to be able to authentically serve people if you’re not aware of their journey from their own perspective. The advice I would give is for people to actually spend time in the communities that you want to support, to get to know the people and understand who the leaders are." - Katrena Perou