Making Philanthropy Equitable and Accessible for Everyone

Thanks to everyone who attended our November 2023 Onyx Sunday Session, which focused on reclaiming the concept of philanthropy so that it’s more equitable and accessible for everyone. In this session, Heather Infantry, CEO of Giving Gap, started by amplifying the work of Black-founded organizations and highlighting the challenges they face due to systemic underfunding. The conversation then shifted to sharing some recently developed tools that are helping to democratize the field of philanthropy, along with some useful suggestions for prospective donors and future fundraisers.  

Funding gap for Black-founded organizations

According to Giving Gap, people in the US donate 450 million dollars a year—but only a fraction of that is directed towards Black-founded organizations. There are several reasons for the large funding gap, including the fact that when people give large gifts to well-known organizations, it leads to media coverage which increases awareness of their work and leads to even more donations. Over time, this leads to people assuming that it’s ‘safer’ to give to well-known organizations than to other nonprofits, and potential donors worrying that funds will be misused or redirected from the communities they wanted to help. The irony is that when people give to smaller nonprofits, more of the donation goes toward programming because these organizations have fewer overhead costs and are less likely to hoard resources into ever-growing endowments. In addition to the risk factor, institutionalized philanthropy has 

New tools for democratizing philanthropy

Websites like Giving Gap and Charity Vest are part of a recent wave of tools that have helped to democratize philanthropy so that it’s more equitable and accessible to the average person. Giving Gap amplifies the work of Black-founded nonprofits and provides a platform that helps to connect the organizations with like-minded individuals and institutions eager to support their work in the community. Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are charitable investment accounts that ease the administrative hurdles that often arise when giving to charities. However, DAFs have minimum balance requirements and fees that often limit access to wealthier individuals. Luckily websites like Charity Vest have worked to eliminate those barriers, therefore making this popular mechanism more accessible to the average person. 

Advice for potential donors

Besides the two platforms we previously mentioned, potential donors have some additional tools to leverage when vetting nonprofits. When looking for insight on a particular organization, reading impact stories is a great place to start. Nonprofit websites often include a page where program participants share success stories and explain how impactful the organization has been for them. Websites like Guidestar (a/k/a Candid) provide access to 990 forms and other information donors can use to get more insight into how an organization uses its funds. And if you want to ensure your financial contributions are having an impact, your best bet is to find values-aligned organizations that you believe in enough to invest your time, talent, and treasure in–because the highest impact can often be found within charitable organizations that are intentional about cultivating relationships with all their stakeholders.

Advice for future fundraisers

This idea of increasing impact by cultivating deep relationships is helpful for both prospective donors and future fundraisers to keep in mind–especially given the perennial challenge of fundraising for many Black-led nonprofits. Many organizations rely on supporters to champion the cause by sharing with their network and asking others to consider donating; however many people avoid doing so due to fear of asking for money. To overcome this barrier, it’s important to center our focus on cultivating relationships rather than asking for money. By mentally reframing the situation as an opportunity to share about a cause that is important to you and an invitation to help amplify the impact, we can make our fundraising efforts a more joyful endeavor.

We hope the information and tips provided were helpful as you start to plan your end-of-year giving.

Heather Infantry

CEO of Giving Gap

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