Spotlight on Tarik Ward: Investing in Black Lives with a Donor Advised Fund
We spoke with Tarik Ward, Director of Music Programs and Strategic Operations at The ELMA Philanthropies Services (U.S.) Inc., to discuss the intention and origins of his Donor Advised Fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Stanford GSB Alumni for Black Lives Fund. In the conversation below, Tarik shares why he decided to partner with the Foundation to create his fund, how he aims to provide an opportunity for people to invest wisely in Black lives through the fund, and why he chose a Donor Advised Fund as the tool to further his giving goals.
Why a Donor Advised Fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation?
I knew the DAF program existed, and I knew the team at Brooklyn Community Foundation - I understood their values, philosophy, and operating model. After looking at the nuts and bolts of opening a DAF it was an easy choice, and it was easy to open - we set up the fund over the phone and email. When you look at other DAF programs and their fees, they don’t compare to Brooklyn Community Foundation - looking across the landscape of options, this program is among the most affordable, the most egalitarian.
The fee rates are extraordinarily low, so right off the bat more of your money gets to where you want it to go. There are very few Donor Advised Fund programs that have annual fund fees this low, and even fewer still that specifically and exclusively reinvest those fees like Brooklyn Community Foundation does through its grantmaking. When you start to actually invest real money into your DAF, you now are literally invested in that community. I live in Brooklyn, so it just made the most sense to open a DAF at Brooklyn Community Foundation.
What motivated you to create your Donor Advised Fund?
After the murder of George Floyd, I got together with a few classmates of mine from the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) and we said, we have to do something - we don't know what yet, but we have to do something. One of our classmates in particular, Olaolu Aganga (who is on the Stanford GSB board), convinced us to try to marshal our network. This is our community of alums, we have to be able to push some sort of action forward.
I think one of the things that we kept hearing from a lot of our classmates was one simple question: ‘how can I help?’ So I worked with my team to put together a list of every Black-serving and Black-led organization we could find - right now that list is over 200 organizations long. Then we said, how are people actually going to give to these places? What if we did it together? What if we gave people a vehicle that was easy, where they could give, and then we could figure out the rest together? That's really where the Donor Advised Fund idea came from, because it offered us a community solution to a community problem. It was a very flexible, easy to understand, easy to operate, easy to maintain vehicle for collective giving and action.
Now that this DAF exists and different alumni classes are starting to think amongst themselves about what they can do, we can offer this ready-made giving vehicle. It lowers the barrier to entry. If classmates want to get together and fundraise, I can literally just send a link to give to the fund, and that makes everybody's lives a little easier. With our DAF, we want to give people in our networks the opportunity to invest wisely in Black lives - to see if we can find ways to put people's giving and capital to work.
What are some of the goals you have for your fund?
We want to redirect funds directly to folks that would need it, that wouldn't have that support otherwise. It doesn't have to be big money, but it's got to be now. Our goal is to support organizations that specifically work on behalf of Black people and communities and to support organizations that are led by people of color. Organizations led by people of color particularly tend to have a hard time fundraising. Leaders of color, they tend to be of the community that they're trying to serve. So oftentimes, they are battling the same problems that they're trying to solve - which tends to then put them outside of the social circles that would grant them the kind of access to capital that their white and more affluent counterparts have.
When you have that confluence of things, when you're a small organization that has a hard time applying for and receiving big money - and then you don't have the relationships to break into those conversations - it creates an environment that makes it very difficult to raise capital. When you consider that, those organizations are the perfect place to start thinking about giving your support.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering opening a Donor Advised Fund?
It’s easier than it sounds - I think when you say “Donor Advised Fund” to folks, there can be a sense that it is extraordinarily sophisticated, hard to understand, and that you need to be wealthy to open a DAF. This is a thing that anybody can do - as long as you've got a good sense of who’s in your community, and how you can best serve them, you can start a fund.
For me, a DAF is kind of like a collection plate. It’s recognizing that somebody needs our help, this is how we can help them, let's pool our resources - it's kind of that simple.
As I was researching Donor Advised Funds I talked with some people that had their own funds to get insight. So if you want to open a DAF: talk to folks. Keep asking questions about the art of the possible. I think most people will find that it is easier than it looks to do and to maintain - and once you get it going can really provide a nice simple giving opportunity for folks to get together and accomplish something.