Commentary: Rethinking philanthropy

Andrea Hulighan

Commentary: Rethinking philanthropy
August 29
05:20 2019

By Andrea Hulighan

What is the image that comes to mind when you see the word “philanthropist?” If you are like most, you probably pictured a wealthy white individual. This is not a surprise given that data shows most of the wealth in this country is held by white households, and this, in turn, is not a surprise given our country’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining and other explicit and implicit policies and laws – all rooted in racism – that have negatively impacted communities of color. 

The Winston-Salem Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Initiative (BPI) aims to redefine this image and the concept of philanthropy. Despite the negative impact of racism and lack of wealth in black households, we know that the black community is a generous one. In fact, a 2012 research study conducted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation showed that black households gave away 25% more of their income per year than any other racial/ethnic group in this country. BPI has worked over the last 12 years to show that philanthropy is more than just monetary giving; it includes the investment of one’s time and talents as well. 

In addition to redefining who is a philanthropist, BPI has worked to ensure its philanthropy benefits the local black community. Every year BPI fundraises in order to make grants, and whether the grants are for financial literacy, education, or parent engagement, BPI has explicitly made grants to programs and projects that benefit the black individuals and families in Forsyth County.  

BPI’s  2018 report, Rethinking Philanthropy: An Exploration of Black Communities in Forsyth County, shows that these investments are needed more than ever. The report provides data that shows disparities when it comes to education, income, and poverty – with people of color almost always faring worse than their white counterparts. This is not the sheer result of individual efforts or the lack thereof; data shows that a black person with a college degree in Forsyth County on average earns less than a white person with a high school degree. The data we see in the report reflects systemic issues rooted in institutional racism – the same ones that have led to most of the wealth in this country being held by white households. While the negative effects of institutional racism seem almost impossible to conquer, BPI believes that a starting point to combatting those effects includes explicitly investing in the black community.  

Every August, BPI observes Black Philanthropy Month. Founded by Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland in 2011, Black Philanthropy Month highlights the many forms of giving among African-descent communities. It provides a time to be more intentional than ever to reflect on the incredible fortitude and generosity of the black community throughout history. 

BPI also celebrates Black Philanthropy Month to educate members of the community on how to get involved in its efforts. There are many ways to support BPI, including signing up to receive our e-news, following us on social media, and joining us at educational events we host each year. You can also read our report and seek ways to continue learning about institutional racism and its ongoing impact on communities of color. Lastly, we hope you will join us at our 10th annual fundraiser on October 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Winston-Salem State University, where we will highlight our 2019 grantees and their projects working to advance equity in education.  

As  the  great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” We invite you to engage with us as we look for new ways to use philanthropy to help create a community where everyone thrives.  


Andrea Hulighan is the director of Strategic Initiatives at The Winston-Salem Foundation.

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