Katrena Perou

Executive Director of Inspiring Minds NYC
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.
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.
How are you using your DAF to support local communities?
I wanted to give differently. I didn't want to just give $5,000 here and $2,000 there, but I wanted to give with a strategy that shed light to this problem of exclusionary funding practices—and to also be able to tell the story of a Black executive who has tried to build a nonprofit and fundraise for it in a way that hasn't felt supported by most philanthropists. But at the same time, to have been impactful to kids in the community.
People have to be empowered to feel like they can liberate themselves. If outside people control the decisions of how resources are used coming into the community without various voices from the community at the table, it only perpetuates the myth that we can’t do it on our own. There's a lot of rich resources and smart, capable people within our communities that can build on solutions to problems, solutions that are already there.
I don't want to shoot people down who are coming from outside the community because more often than not, that's what's happening. But there is a way to do it in a way that I feel is empowering for the community and allows them to make the decisions for how things are happening.
I know how discouraging it can be as a person of color running a nonprofit, and that’s why I wanted to make that the heart of my Donor Advised Fund—to support people of color, and our community. 
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.