Kalyn James

Kalyn James (standing) facing Wendy Ellis, Barron Channer and Nadege Green on stage.

Over the past decade or so, Black philanthropy has taken an increasingly more significant role in the global fabric for civic action. According to a 2012 report from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Black people are more inclined to give back: Each year, African American households give away, on average, 25 percent more of their incomes than their white counterparts, whether it’s through charitable organizations, individual donations, businesses or social enterprises.

So how are philanthropic organizations using that rising force in addressing systemic issues and how are they creating opportunities within the communities they serve?

These questions were the starting point for Miami Foundation’s annual State of Black Philanthropy, held this past Wednesday at the Overtown Arts Performing Center. The event, which brought together philanthropic leaders, set out to consider local organizations' challenges and how their work can have a more effective, sustained impact.

Moderator Nadege Green, a reporter for WLRN Public Radio, lead the discussion with questions ranging from engaging donors from different, local Black communities to the transparency in organizational practices.

Barron Channer, a member of the board of directors of the American Friends of Jamaica, spoke about philanthropy as a heterogeneous sector, going beyond just altruism and moral responsibility, and how reaching out to donors requires well-orchestrated efforts. "People can respond in different ways and have different motivations for giving,"

he said. "In our case, there are people who are legitimately passionate about giving, people who are passionate about Jamaica. And then there are the strategic people."

He explained: "Organizations must learn to leverage their assets. If you are going to be in the business of doing good things don't let your imagination limit the scope. We are competing against other organizations that are creating substantial appeal by offering donors added-on benefits, such as social value by networking."

"The African-American community isn't being channeled in a way that it can be captured," said Guislain Gouraige Jr., board chair for the Ayiti Community Trust. He suggested that charitable organizations find bridges between Black donors and issues that will resonate with them. "We must work in changing the perception of a one-to-one basis to thinking more broadly about the community," he said. "All Black groups can learn from each other."

Dr. Wendy Ellis of Honey Shine, a mentoring program for girls and young women, pointed out that non-profits must be constant at creating opportunities for people to see what they are doing and give donors an opportunity to get directly involved. "That way, the real passionate people will come forward," she said.

Accountability and transparency were also discussed in terms of when and how philanthropic capital is directed and what are the results of that management. According to Channer, organizations need to be honest and practical in making sure that people understand the equitable way, "have an audit committee if necessary to look at numbers and show how they make sense," he said.

"Community philanthropic organizations are building trust from within," said Gouraige, who's working on an endowment focused on benefiting the people in Haiti. He added that donors must be made aware that some of the financial resources must go toward infrastructure and the organization’s staff. "At the end of the day, the success of an organization is measured by whether it is still around."

In addressing an audience's question on what's being done so that philanthropy is not viewed as a distant process by those with fewer financial resources, Gouraige said that his organization doesn't measure a donor's capacity for giving. "Volunteers can contribute with work, everybody has something to give, whether is financial capital or not."

"We don't care how much you give," he said. "We just want you to give."

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