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New Report Offers Funders Solutions to Philadelphia Philanthropy’s Equity Problem

Reflecting Forward: Philadelphia-based Black Nonprofit Leaders’ Recommendations for Regional Funders is a continuation of the 2016 report Philadelphia’s Nonprofit Human Service Organizations: How African American-led Organizations Differ from White-led Organizations that identified the challenges Black nonprofit leaders face when navigating the complex social service landscape and philanthropic sector.

The report pointed out that Black nonprofit leaders are often forced to do more with less and report more significant challenges with fundraising than their white counterparts.

2016's report identified the problems. Reflecting Forward proposes solutions.

Sixteen nonprofit leaders from the Black Nonprofit Chief Executives of Philadelphia participated in interviews based on the 2016 report findings and offered recommendations about how regional funders can best support Black-led and Black-serving organizations.

Here are the recommendations:


Get to Know Us

In the same way that Black entrepreneurs face barriers to accessing capital for their businesses, many Black nonprofit leaders face significant challenges in their efforts to fundraise. The historical lack of diversity in the philanthropic sector has resulted in Black nonprofit leaders having limited access to networking opportunities and developing relationships with funders. The most frequent recommendation was to create intentional networking opportunities between philanthropic leadership and Black nonprofit leaders.

Embrace Trust-Based Philanthropy

The simplest, yet most impactful way regional funders can support Black leaders and Black-serving organizations is with unrestricted, multi-year general operating support and transformational gifts. Funders should also embrace other tenets associated with trust-based philanthropy like simplifying grant applications and reporting, investing in nonprofit organizational and leadership capacity building and development, and committing to transparency and accountability. Simply put, let the experts be the experts.

Trust Black Leaders

While it may be uncomfortable, white nonprofit leaders and funders must acknowledge that they have benefited from racial and cultural biases. Black nonprofit leaders are not afforded the same privilege. The leaders interviewed for the Reflecting Forward report recommend that regional funders stop treating Black leaders and Black-serving organizations as incompetent and risky and prioritize those organizations unapologetically. They recommend regional funders support Black leaders during leadership transitions, increase Black representation in philanthropic leadership, and unequivocally support Black women leaders.
United Way is honored to have funded the study that resulted in these recommendations. Our work will continue to focus on reducing poverty and expanding opportunity in the region, and this report is a wonderful reminder that who is doing the work is as important as the work itself.

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