Celebrating the Power of Black Philanthropy
August represents many things to many people. For some, it’s a punctuation mark on summer—where we bid farewell to heatwaves and get ready for autumn days. For those of us here in Brooklyn, it’s also a time to get ready for the West Indian Day Parade, where Eastern Parkway turns into a celebration of life, culture, and community. Added to this, at Brooklyn Community Foundation, we like to remind everyone that, since 2011, August holds the distinction of being Black Philanthropy Month.
Even if this is your first time hearing of Black Philanthropy Month, you shouldn’t be surprised that Black philanthropy is a thing. “There but for the grace of God go I,” is an enduring mantra in almost every Black family. It reminds us that—no matter how hard you work—sometimes it’s only grace and the generosity of others that will help you make it from one day to the next.
But this isn’t just lip service or a feel-good platitude. A recent study by W.K. Kellogg shows that Black people put their money where their mouths are, giving 25% more of their annual income to charity than white households. Further, many of us know firsthand the impact that charitable giving has on the trajectory of people’s lives.
I always tell people, working at Brooklyn Community Foundation isn’t a job—it’s an honor to support the nonprofits that are both lifelines for our communities and fighting for long-term change across Brooklyn.
My personal goal for this Black Philanthropy Month is to keep using my position to lift up the nonprofits, leaders, and donors who are making Brooklyn better. That’s why, in this month’s column, I’m excited to introduce my friend Diahann Billings-Burford, a national nonprofit CEO, lifelong Brooklynite, and Brooklyn Community Foundation donor advisor.
Civil Rights icon Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “Nobody's free until everybody's free.” This is something that Diahann lives and breathes. In fact, when she became CEO of RISE, an organization that harnesses the power of sports—from youth programs to professional leagues—to address racism and promote social justice, she hung a photo of Ms. Hamer and Muhammad Ali in her office as a daily reminder of the importance of standing up for others.
I’ve known Diahann personally and professionally for many years. Since she joined RISE four years ago, she has been committed to ensuring that it is an effective instrument for change. Today, RISE educates and empowers athletes, coaches, and sports leaders to hold critical conversations about race and gives them the tools to make a difference. While the murder of George Floyd forced the world to see racist brutality in policing, we know that every day racial aggression and hostility plays out in locker rooms, classrooms, and board rooms.
“If we’re looking for solutions to racism, we need to be open and honest about how we’re going to deconstruct it as a society,” Diahann recently explained. “Some people think racism should just be over. But we can’t wipe away this construct and its effects in one fell swoop. Still, I know in my heart and mind that we can unmake it because people made it in the first place.”
Much like myself, Diahann is a proud Brooklyn girl (born and bred in Clinton Hill) and is incredibly passionate about the nonprofit sector. These two things together led her to create a Donor Advised Fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation.
“When I first began discussions with Brooklyn Community Foundation, we talked about how to increase the amount of people in the Black middle class who are willing to step up to transform Brooklyn through philanthropy,” recalls Diahann. “And I think it’s critical to support an organization that’s supporting Black people in Brooklyn, especially one that is run by a Black woman.”
For Brooklynites like Diahann, Donor Advised Funds at Brooklyn Community Foundation are quickly becoming a go-to charitable giving vehicle. Our DAF program offers our partners the flexibility and ease of giving to nonprofits they care about anywhere in the country, while giving back to the place they call home through a 1% fee that supports our grantmaking for racial justice. It’s a win-win for people who love Brooklyn.
Diahann never hesitates to remind people why she’s so passionate about philanthropy. “I was a Prep for Prep kid,” she reflects. “Because of its commitment to helping kids like me gain access to private schools, not only did it open doors that otherwise might have been closed, it completely changed the trajectory of my life. So I see philanthropy and supporting nonprofits that are paving the way for future generations as a moral obligation.”
If you have the capacity for philanthropic giving—and rest assured that no amount is too small—giving through Brooklyn Community Foundation is a great way to start. Learn more about ways to give here.