There are countless reasons to pay attention to the designation of August as Black Philanthropy Month. It serves as a wake-up call for some and a call to action for others. And it’s an opportunity to more deeply understand and reframe philanthropy to reflect its truest meaning, “love of humankind.”
Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) was created in August 2011 by the Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network as an annual global celebration of African-descent giving. In 2013, a widespread and concerted effort began to invite public participation in high-impact events, media stories and service projects. Expanding each year since, the impact of BPM can be seen online and in communities with local and global dimensions.
Leveraging the power of technology and social media, BPM initiatives offer the best in sacred connections between asset-rich individuals with a passion for making a difference and the most pressing human needs in communities everywhere. As donors become savvier, established institutions must grow and expand to offer the accessibility, metrics and impact required to demonstrate good stewardship.
Elevating a Culture of Giving, the theme of BPM 2016, focuses a much needed spotlight on the transformative ways donors, volunteers and givers make a difference. Nationwide, black donors are increasing the profile and power of African-American giving through civic engagement, intentional financial investment and inspirational giving practices that redefine and challenge previously held images of people of color only as beneficiaries, never benefactors. When donors recognize their philanthropic values and their power, visible, tangible and amazing changes result in people’s lives. At the root of all these efforts is an emerging narrative legacy of generosity anchored in traditional values that bridge millennial ingenuity and spark collective giving initiatives.
Emmett Carson, Ph.D., noted scholar and founding CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, has described the black church as the first community foundation. Giving that is built on an understanding of obligation, opportunity and consistent exposure to mission and vision has anchored many of the practices we see today. As we examine African-American giving and the power and potential that exists in it, this history of excellence has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. The extensive ties of African-Americans to their faith community can obscure deep understanding and recognition of the philanthropic impact of African-Americans. BPM simultaneously explores and inspires the giving practices that bring new life to historic institutions and new purpose to community solutions as diverse as the donors themselves.
Elevating a Culture of Giving is a call to action that can ignite those in faith communities to match their giving to their values. For far too long we have talked about time, talent and treasure and forgotten that there is another dimension, the fourth T — testimony. We need to elevate and encourage testimony as part of the giving journey. BPM is a poignant reminder of the power of testimony to focus our lens of abundance.
We give in response to a generous God who we acknowledge as the Creator of all things, the giver of life, and the primary example of generosity that we follow. Black Philanthropy Month should matter to each and every one of us. It is an opportunity to celebrate the significance of our personal giving and embrace the giving practices and motivations of others to guide us all to a better tomorrow.