The program helps foundations better fund nonprofits run by Black Business News

Written by JIM RENDON of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Chronicle of Philanthropy

A new effort was released on Monday to help donors change the way they work to better support black-led nonprofits. Abundance is a collaboration between three donors in the Chicago area, Chicago Beyond, the Grand Victoria Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Abundance is not a promise, but a program for donors. The foundations are in the process of hiring a director for Abundance and have given the group an annual budget of $ 400,000 for three years. Much about how it works will be determined by the director, but the idea is to provide a forum for scholarship holders to learn from each other on how to change their practices to more effectively support black-led groups, often small, locally oriented and historically underfunded.

“When we think about the actual change that needs to happen, it requires more than just a signature and a promise,” says Liz Dozier, executive director of Chicago Beyond. “The promise must be backed up by some kind of actual commitment and then by action.”

The MacArthur Foundation will provide funding and support as needed, says John Palfrey, president of the foundation. Palfrey says he was attracted to the program in part because of MacArthur’s recent efforts to include justice in all of its funding allocations as part of its decision-making. He hopes that the Foundation’s participation will also show others in philanthropy that a large global foundation can also participate in this effort.

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“The Abundance movement, in my view, goes from the promise we talked about to the practice and really deliberate, clear and responsible allocation of grants,” Palfrey says. “None of these things happen easily overnight.”

Abundance is trying to solve long-standing problems in philanthropy, says Liza Mueller, vice president of mindfulness and knowledge at Echoing Green, an organization that invests in and provides support to emerging social enterprise leaders. Echoing Green conducted a study in which it found that groups led by color leaders receive less money from institutions than those run by whites, and that the money they receive is more likely to be limited.

Mueller says scholarship recipients are currently interested in giving to groups led by colored people, largely because of the demands for racial equality in 2020. But their own internal practices sometimes prevent them from doing so effectively. He says Echoing Green has been approached by corporations and foundations that want to give to non-profit organizations run by blacks. In general, they want to fund larger groups that have a long history. Mueller says that due to historically underinvestment in these organizations, few meet these criteria.

“Once you start putting these types of parameters on the things you want to fund, the pool with each constraint you impose only gets smaller and smaller,” he says. “At first it seems really great because you make a commitment, you make that promise, but once we get to the end, it’s very hard to find the right matches.”

Palfrey noted similar restrictions among donors that led to unfair funding. “Great philanthropy needs to change its parameters,” he says. “We need to work in ways that will change the course of history and in ways that are different than in the past. And some of it is finding ways to get resources at an earlier stage. “

Dozier of Chicago Beyond and Sharon Bush, president of the Grand Victoria Foundation, were inspired to form Abundance after reading an editorial in a local business newspaper urging racial justice protesters to calm down, otherwise they would lose support from civic and business community.

“It seemed very inhumane,” Bush says.

Philanthropy was also part of the problem, he says. “We often have such ways of thinking about black communities as problems that need to be solved, as opposed to the people we will love, like all other groups of people,” he says. “What would we do if we decided to support them differently?”

Bush and Dozier wanted to find ways to get more donors interested in supporting black non-profit organizations with multi-year grants, understand the challenges facing black-led groups, and help such groups grow in a way , which can be maintained.

They were also aware that an opportunity arose after the assassination of George Floyd. Recipients of grants were interested in supporting black-led groups in a way never before seen. And, says Dozier, they were also aware that the opportunity would not last forever.

The goal is to bring together a group of foundations that want to learn how to involve more black-led groups in their funding allocation and ultimately raise more funding for them.

“It’s about how we fundamentally change practice and our own understanding of how bias creeps into our practices,” Dozier says. “It’s really not something of a script, but we’re really trying to learn together to be better.”

There are no funding goals – the group is simply asking supporters who join the Abundance to give more to groups led by blacks. The group intends to monitor this funding, although Bush and Dozier have not been able to say with certainty whether those numbers will be public.

Abundance intends to reach foundations that are curious but may not yet be engaged, and not just those that are already successfully funding black-led groups. This would not increase the amount of money available to these groups.

Bush and Dozier say the upcoming director will have his own ideas on how to incorporate the foundation into these efforts, but both expect a certain amount of phone calls and basic awareness to be needed.

A $ 7 billion involvement of the MacArthur Foundation could help, says Meuller of Echoing Green. “I think it’s really sending a signal to the field,” he says. “We need more reputable institutions to set up such partnerships and campaigns like this, because it’s a really important factor in how change is happening in this area.”

The foundations that join should be ready for real collaboration and learning, Dozier says.

“We don’t just tell people to go do it,” he says. Instead, he says, the participating grant makers will be part of a community “where everyone is welcome to join in and start researching practices and testing things and complicating and working together for progress and action.”

This article was provided by The Chronicle of Philanthropy by The Associated Press. Jim Rendon is a senior writer at the Chronicle. Email: AP and Chronicle receive Lilly Endowment support to cover philanthropy and nonprofits. AP and Kronika are solely responsible for all content. For full AP philanthropy coverage, visit

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