Grantmaker or Catalyst? Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities

December 3, 2012

Catalyst. Facilitator. Broker. Advocate.  Connector. Community leader. Influencer of influencers.

Are you a grantmaker and do these roles describe you?

Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, former vice president of community philanthropy at The Minneapolis Foundation (and former MCF board chair), has issued a clarion call to grantmakers to embrace all of these roles in pursuit of “zero tolerance for the disparities in our community.”

In her James A. Joseph Lecture, delivered at the 2012 Association of Black Foundation Executives conference and published recently by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Kelley-Ariwoola challenges grantmakers to “speak truth to power” at every opportunity.

That boldness, she emphasizes, is essential to eliminating the equity gaps that exist in Minneapolis and other communities. Citing data from the One Minneapolis research report, she says:

We identified 24 community indicators in the three areas of The Minneapolis Foundation’s strategic plan – education, economic vitality and building social capital – and we painted a picture of Minneapolis that most people do not see. The dirty little secret is that Minneapolis is two cities and not one: one where many people (primarily white) thrive and another where primarily low-income people of color suffer from disparities on every indicator. The data on each of the indicators, broken out by race and ethnicity, and in some cases home language, gender and whether residents were born in the U.S. or abroad, revealed gaps that we . . . are so familiar with – what we call the equity gap.

She further explains that the path to equity is not paved with money. Grantmakers must lead by “building relationships up and down and across the community, at all levels, across sectors, across race, political affiliation and role.” And then grantmakers must apply all the tools in their toolbox —  “community knowledge, relationships with donors, convenings, communications and public information strategies, policy and advocacy” and more to address structural problems.

I encourage you to read Kelley-Ariwoola’s full lecture, entitled “Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities:  Mobilizing Our Resources for Impact.” If you care about addressing equity gaps right where we live, it’s worth your time.

- Wendy Wehr, MCF vice-president of communications and information services


Karen Kelley-Ariwoola Lauded for Community Contributions

March 29, 2012

Karen Kelley-Ariwoola

Last night The Minneapolis Foundation hosted an emotional celebration of the many accomplishments of Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, soon-to-be-former vice president, community philanthropy. She is concluding 18 years of dedicated community service and leadership with the foundation.

Guests and speakers included a who’s who of leaders from the Twin Cities, from major philanthropic organizations, and from the local and national African-American community. Just a few include:

  • Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who thanked Kelley-Ariwoola for sharing honest insights and guidance when he was still a wet-behind-the-ears city official. Rybak challenged every guest to follow her example by reaching out today to help just one other person in need in the community.
  • Emmett Carson, former leader of The Minneapolis Foundation and current CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Carson first hired Kelley-Ariwoola in Minneapolis and served as her mentor for many years.
  • Gladys Washington, chair of the board of the Association of Black Foundation Professionals (ABFE). Washington made the surprise announcement that Kelley-Ariwoola has been named the 21st James A. Joseph Lecturer, which is ABFE’s award of distinction for philanthropic leadership in support of Black communities.

Sandy Vargas, current president and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation, topped off the honors by revealing that the foundation had established a $20,000 donor-advised fund in Kelley-Ariwoola’s name, giving her discretion to make gifts to the nonprofit causes about which she cares most.

Kelley-Ariwoola graciously thanked everyone for the honors and reminded all that, after she takes time with her family, she will return to community service, advocating for children and others in need.

While the Minnesota Council on Foundations is grateful for Karen Kelley-Ariwoola’s many years of leadership with our association (most recently as board chair), we are even more thankful for the positive difference that she has made in our community. We eagerly look forward to her return as a community builder and servant leader.

- Wendy Wehr, MCF v.p. of  communications and information services


Inclusivity, Equality and Diversity — A Challenge, and A Call to Action

December 11, 2009

“If people are supported to work towards equity, diversity and inclusion, they will do it.” This was the inspiring message delivered by Susan Taylor Batten at the MCF 40th Anniversary and Annual Member Meeting.

Susan Taylor Batten

Susan Taylor Batten, President & CEO of ABFE, presented as keynote speaker at the MCF 40th Anniversary and Annual Member Meeting.

More than 70 MCF members, trustees and staff joined together on a snowy Dec. 8th evening to celebrate MCF’s 40th year, and to hear Susan Batten, president and CEO of the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), deliver her keynote presentation titled “Philanthropy’s Leadership Challenge.”

According to Batten, the challenge before us is the need to foster leadership that is diverse and reflective of the populations that foundations and nonprofits serve. As she repeated during her speech, “We share a common fate.”  To ensure that our fate — and our future — is the best of all possible outcomes, leaders across spectrums of race, ethnicity, gender and ability must be represented in the highest ranks of the philanthropic field.

Batten presented the teachings that she’s learned over the course of her rich career in the independent sector through the framework of MCF’s own STRATEGY | 2010 strategic plan. In order to meet the challenge of encouraging diversity in philanthropic leadership, foundations and grantmaking organizations must:

  • Lead:
    We must use our unique platform to speak specifically and intentionally about race, gender and class disparities. We need to communicate that we share a common fate. We live, now more than ever, in an ecosystem of communities. The health of one community can not be neglected in this interconnected web, or all will suffer the consequences.
  • Serve:
    We must continue to deliver high-quality services to our communities and stakeholders. We must do that by working differently using the sophisticated analytical tools available to us to determine the effect of our investment strategies on specific demographics. We must build cultural skills and competencies within our organizations, and we must actively engage end beneficiaries in our work to ensure the design of our investment strategies is sound.
  • Build:
    Finally, we must build new practices and policies that create opportunities for all. Racial disparities are created and maintained through policies and practices that contain barriers. The only way to fix these inequities is to identify and focus on actively correcting these barriers within our institutions.

“Given the right messages and tools,” Batten confidently reiterated at the closing of her speech, “…people will work towards equality, diversity and inclusivity.” As philanthropic leaders, we are ideally positioned to be the change that we want to see in the world. This is, as Batten stated, “The field of ideas and innovations — where you can take risks.”

If you are ready to accept Batten’s challenge for the field of philanthropy, we invite you to begin by reading up on MCF’s Diversity Resources. There you will find useful tools to assist you in your work, including the Race Matters Toolkit, a kit developed by Batten and her colleagues during her time as senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Start the conversation: Funders, what tools, like the Race Matters Toolkit, have you used to make decisions about your organization’s philanthropic investment strategy? If you’re a nonprofit reader, have you changed the way you report on your work to help you and potential funders see the impact your work has on different demographic groups?

- Cary Lenore Walski, MCF web communications associate


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