2020 wasn’t all bad. The “good” includes unusual – and large – investments by the philanthropic community Black-led nonprofits and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These organizations have been the beneficiary of gifts and investments on a scale most have never seen before. An understanding of current and historical inequitable giving and investment has spurred much of this. The cry “Black lives matter” is being heard by philanthropy – and corporations – who engaged in soul-searching and grantmaking as they listened and responded. And COVID-19 has deepened disparities, bringing pain and suffering in disproportionate ways to Black and Brown communities. If there has ever been a time to wake up to the impact of conscious and unconscious racism, it has been 2020.
We saw Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and his wife Patty Quillin give $40 million gifts to Spelman College, Morehouse College, and the United Negro College Fund. That’s $40 million each; $120 million in one round of giving.
Not to be outdone, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis created a $40 million beneficial endowment for Memphis’ only HBCU – LeMoyne-Owen College. Ford Foundation issued a $1 billion Social Bond as “an innovative solution that achieved both objectives of increasing resources for grants and not taking capital out of the endowment at a critical time of market volatility.” This means Ford Foundation can respond to the devastation caused by COVID-19 with double their annual grantmaking for 2020 and 2021. Black foundation executives issued a call to action to their peers on how to take action against anti-Black racism. Michael Bloomberg gave $100 million to medical schools at four HBCUs. MacKenzie Scott gave $4,158,500,000 in gifts to 384 organizations. And, as we write Congress passed economic relief legislation including forgiveness of $1.3 billion in institutional debt at HBCUs. And this is just a sampling!
There has never been a year like this. For many leaders this is the first time they haven’t had to make increasingly difficult decisions about how to do more with less. There appears to be an understanding of the role that Black-led organizations and institutions play. At the same time, we’ve talked with philanthropists, fundraisers, and leaders who are grateful, and also cautious. These are people who have “been around the block” and wizened by the school of life. We share some of their comments with you for your consideration.
“How long will the window stay open?” “Will people think this round of giving is all we need?” “Will this be a case of ‘one and done.?’” “Does a $40 million gift to an HBCU mean the institution’s needs are now met?” They are grateful for the investment, and simultaneously concerned that organizations and institutions won’t build the capacity and infrastructure they need to sustain for decades to come. They are urging leaders to use this moment in time to build long-term relationships. We’ll share suggestions in part two.
In part two we share suggestions for sustaining investment.
[Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.]