Grantmaker or Catalyst? Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities

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

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