So, what do we do?
Acknowledge the problem. We learn early in drug and alcohol recovery the first step- acknowledge there is a problem. Although it’s been documented and the inequities are visible, there hasn’t been a real acknowledgement of how it is problematic for everyone to not change our local practices. At the recent Non Profit summit, the question was asked to philanthropic leaders in a breakout “How are disparities in giving addressed?” All of the panelists stated it’s bigger than the foundation community. It is a systemic problem regionally. Then let’s systematically change it regionally; first, by acknowledging in a big way that current practices need to change.
Living Culturally Sensitive. We’re not going to call it training. Training implies you are learning something in a specific amount of time for a specific purpose that may or may not lend itself to your daily interactions. We want everyone to be mindful of their cultural space all the time; particularly decision makers in all industries such as foundations, corporations, government contractors etc. It’s okay to have Board meetings in the community with community residents a couple of times a year. The common grant application can be the 2nd step, visit the sites first. Meet people where they are.
Transparent practices. It appears as if support and resource allocation is not given in a fair and equitable manner. We can curtail that thinking with decision makers providing more information on how selections are made, how often and to whom. You then have adequate information to evaluate distribution.
Support ourselves. Of all the solutions to increasing capacity and obtaining resources, supporting ourselves is the one solution we have greater control over.
Karris Jackson, a former executive director of a community non-profit, is the current vice president of a philanthropic organization- A Black, philanthropic organization. Below are her thoughts.
After reading the articles, Pittsburgh’s Community-Based Nonprofits Are Assets Too: Part I and II, in the New Pittsburgh Courier, I am deeply concerned about the struggles facing so many Black led organizations that are doing such great work in the Black community. I agree that there are institutional policies and practices within Foundations, both written and unwritten, that make it challenging and, in some instances, impossible for Black nonprofit directors to successfully navigate Pittsburgh’s philanthropic landscape. Although it is tempting, justifiable and necessary to focus on the disparities that exist within the funding community, both locally and nationally, as it relates to Black led nonprofit organizations, I want to focus on one of Pittsburgh’s greatest assets, the POISE Foundation.
As a current Connecting Leaders Fellow with the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), I’ve had the opportunity to meet African Americans who work in Foundations from all across the county. When I introduce myself and inform them I work at POISE Foundation: An African American community foundation in Pittsburgh, PA, their jaw drops. Without fail, their response is always, “I didn’t know there was a Black foundation in Pittsburgh. Wow, what a great asset to have in your community.” Other comments range from, “Pittsburgh doesn’t know how privileged it is to have an organization like POISE” to “A Foundation that focuses solely on supporting the Black community, I didn’t know anything like that existed”.
POISE Foundation is a 501(c) 3 organization that started in December 1980 as the first public foundation in the state of Pennsylvania organized and managed by African Americans. POISE was founded to promote core principles of wealth building and to encourage collective giving as a means of supporting economic and social development in Pittsburgh’s Black community. POISE’s mission is: To assist the Pittsburgh Region’s Black Community in achieving self-sustaining practices, through strategic leadership, collective giving, grant making and advocacy.
Given its mission, the POISE Foundation can be a vehicle for Pittsburgh’s Black community to come together and strategically place its financial resources to ensure that funding is available for Black led organizations doing work in the Black community. Just imagine, if 5,000 people in Pittsburgh’s Black community committed to giving $100.00 a year for three years. That could create a fund of 1.5 million dollars that could be used to support Black led organizations in the Pittsburgh region.
We have the assets necessary to begin solving the problems in our community. We just have to be willing to come together!
All of these solutions are viable, firmly placing accountability in the laps of all who have a stake in how we uplift communities. Now, who’s ready change the way we do business?
Bernadette Turner is executive director of Addison Behavioral Care and Founder of the African American Leadership Association. Karris Jackson is Vice President of Programs for the Poise Foundation.