13 Feb UNIFYING A RACIALLY DIVERSE COMMUNITY: LESSONS SHARED AT 2020 STATE OF BLACK PHILANTHROPY
In August 2017, a white nationalist rally erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving one young woman and two officers dead and dozens injured – and a community wounded and divided in its aftermath.
Brennan Gould wanted to help her community recover. Then director for programs of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, a celebrated agency with a 50-year track record, Brennan knew the foundation could do and be more to its racially diverse constituents in their time of need. Brennan, now president and CEO of the foundation, led the effort to create the Heal Charlottesville Fund, which has since become a national model for using philanthropy to unite diverse communities.
“We had to acknowledge that we are many communities and that people need different supports, especially in times of crisis,” Brennan recounted to a crowd of 130+ donors and civic leaders during the fifth Annual State of Black Philanthropy at the Overtown Performing Arts Center on February 12th.
The Miami Foundation, with support from Bank of America, holds the forum annually every February. Brennan was in conversation with Nancy Ancrum, editorial board editor of the Miami Herald. As they discussed the inside story on how the effort came together, Brennan shared strategies that helped the city heal while addressing long-held racial divisions and lessons that local donors could apply in Greater Miami.
Watch: 2020 State of Black Philanthropy
Video: 2020 State of Black Philanthropy
Invest in a community with intentionality
Thinking back on the chaotic period following the rallies, Brennan recalled how it marked the beginning of a significant shift in how the foundation saw itself as a change agent in the community. Before the attacks, the foundation followed a traditional model of grantmaking, requiring applicants be from a nonprofit, for example. After the attacks, when resources to help the victims were in short supply, Brennan and her team strategized on ways to make grants more accessible through the new Heal Charlottesville Fund.
Brennan – along with her board – created innovative ways to work outside the norm of traditional nonprofits. “We needed to take a pause and self-assess,” she said. “We asked ourselves: what barriers do we have to resources? What assumptions are we making about how we are showing up? How do those who don’t use us see us? What organizations are not nonprofits, but are doing good work? It was important to me to think about access.”
Breaking with traditional methods of giving, Brennan and her board opened up the fund to everyone who needed resources to recover and let anyone “who wanted to make the place they live better” apply. As a result, more than $1 million was granted to 40+ individuals, organizations and business leaders, and untapped a new donor base. The fund also distributed $400,000 to residents experiencing physical and emotional trauma resulting from the rallies.
Center philanthropy on equity
Once the urgency of the crisis response had passed, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation staff took a deeper look at the foundation’s grantmaking structure. They explored how they could “remove the influences of race and power” that had historically driven decisions.
“As a community sharing a place, we have to value and invest in each other,” Brennan said. “Equity is about seeing people in their full context and with intentionality, so our giving is targeted, nuanced and accessible.” This institutional self-examination, Brennan said, sent ripples of discomfort among some donors that she is still managing. But, she noted, the overall response has been positive.
In a May 2019 letter to the Charlottesville community, Brennan explained how the foundation would “center its work in equity,” strategically rooting out “systems of power” that had resulted in disparities. She wrote, “Equity is not charity, nor it is about shame and blame … Equity is about fairness, access and equal opportunities.”
Brennan’s lessons resonated in Miami. During the program, former board member of The Miami Foundation, Barron Channer, publicly launched the new Black Philanthropy Fund. Conceived as part of Give Miami Day 2019, the Fund is a partnership between Barron, Carole Hall and the Foundation to support nonprofits that are creating long-term impacts and advancing issues vital to historic black neighborhoods. The Fund’s pilot campaign raised about $20,000 in two-and-a-half weeks, which was recently awarded to 39 organizations (see the full list of grantees below).
“I want to stress the urgency of now,” Channer said. “The stresses on individuals who are trying to succeed here – those without accessible resources – are not easing.” Channer invited the evening’s audience to consider four ways to move community-supporting ideas forward, as he did in co-founding the Fund.
- Whatever the idea, do them now and with urgency.
- Keep the ideas simple and easy to execute.
- Leverage the power of story to engage others.
- Tap your personal and organizational networks to amplify passions.
The Miami Foundation interim president and CEO, Joe A. Fernandez, alongside Bank of America’s Vania Laguerre, also announced the bank’s financial commitment to help the Foundation commission a research study to better-understand giving among Greater Miami’s black communities.
“More than leveling the playing field, improving racial equity has a major socio-economic impact on Greater Miami’s black residents and communities,” Joe said. “It affects crucial issues like housing affordability and access to a good education. Philanthropy, when harnessed with intent and strategy, as it was in Charlottesville, has the power to increase access, equity and prosperity in all communities.”
Black Philanthropy Fund Grantees
Affirming Youth Foundation, Inc.
Belafonte Tacolcy Center, Inc.
CARE Elementary School, Inc.
Center for Family and Child Enrichment
Code Fever Miami Inc.
Curley’s House of Style, Inc.
Delou Africa, Inc.
Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Inc
Empowered Youth, Inc.
Experience Aviation, Inc.
Family Action Network Movement
Gang Alternative, Inc.
Haitian American Community Development Corporation
Haitian Neighborhood Center, Sant La, Inc.
Historic Hampton House Community Trust, Inc.
Honey Shine, Inc.
Jessie Trice Community Health Foundation
M Ensemble Company, Inc.
Miami Children’s Initiative, Inc.
Miami Workers Center, Inc.
One Hundred Black Men of South Florida, Inc.
Opa-locka Community Development Corporation
Overtown Optimist Club, Inc
Overtown Youth Center
Peter London Global Dance Company, Inc.
Power U Center for Social Change Inc
RJT Foundation, Inc.
SBC Community Development Corporation of Richmond Heights, Inc.
Ted Lucas Foundation Corp
Teen Upward Bound
The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc.
The Liberty City Optimist Club of Fl, Inc
Thelma Gibson Health Initiative
Virginia Key Beach Park Trust
Michelle Brown is a Miami-based writer reporting on community issues.