By Ali Titus and Quinetha Frasier
In the nearly 6 months since the Emanuel A.M.E. Massacre, many individuals and organizations have taken action, however overdue. CCF, for example, launched the Lowcountry Unity Fund and recently adopted a Statement on Equity and Inclusion.
The following article comes from Ali Titus, Program Officer, and Quinetha Frasier, Major Gifts Officer at Trident United Way. They discuss the need to apply equity and inclusion to our philanthropic sector to create meaningful, lasting change in our community.
On June 17th, our city received a long-overdue call to action. The synergy we’ve seen in the aftermath of the Emanuel AME Massacre has created a ripple effect with the potential to reframe our narrative on racial equity in Charleston. Nowhere is that ripple more apparent than philanthropy. As generosity pours into our city, we ask ourselves, how do we channel philanthropy in a way that creates meaningful solutions? To advance equity in our community, we must work internally to achieve a more equitable philanthropic sector.
Responsive, not reactive, philanthropy fuels meaningful community impact. Responsive giving is informed and inclusive. It requires intentional engagement with target communities. Working in partnership with beneficiaries better positions donors and funders to respond to needs in a way that creates lasting improvement. Then, when trauma affects target communities, a real understanding of community members enables the philanthropic sector to meaningfully respond with agility and empathy.
An inclusive philanthropic sector can fuel change, which makes input from direct service providers invaluable to responsive philanthropy. Who, for example, better understands issues affecting homelessness than nonprofits directly serving those without homes? As grant-making organizations, Coastal Community Foundation and Trident United Way regularly engage with nonprofits on the ground to better understand the needs of our target communities. Beyond advancing our understanding, authentic relationships within the nonprofit sector enable us to facilitate connections and educational opportunities for donors and grants committees.
In addition to engaging with nonprofit beneficiaries, responsive philanthropy listens to the voices of communities served. Engaging with diversity by making room at the table for community members served by the nonprofit sector is also critical to solving social problems. In recognition of this authentic inclusion, Coastal Community Foundation is working internally to address our own need for diverse representation among our leaders and decision makers. We can only attain equity through active engagement with diversity, not simply filling seats at the table. Ultimately, this will equip our community to meaningfully respond to needs, achieving equity through inclusion.
To foster responsive philanthropy, Coastal Community Foundation and Trident United Way are actively working to achieve diverse representation, inclusiveness and equity. The African American Leadership Council (AALC) of Trident United Way, for example, provides the organization with an internal pool representing a minority perspective and informing organizational decision making. Additionally, the AALC provides our entire sector with a clearinghouse of African Americans who are actively engaged with philanthropy and ready for board and committee service. Partnering with the AALC has enabled Coastal Community Foundation to expand our network of diverse candidates for board and committee leadership. In order to be truly representative, the AALC actively makes space at the table for our donors of all capacities and not only includes all members’ perspectives regardless of wealth, but deeply values their insight in decision making.
Another example of movement towards responsive philanthropy is seen through the Lowcountry Unity Fund of Coastal Community Foundation. Made possible through the generosity of corporate and individual giving after the Emanuel AME Massacre, the Fund’s stated purpose is to promote long-term solutions that address systemic issues contributing to racism and to economic inequality in African-American communities. In order to ensure that the work of the Fund is truly responsive to our community’s need for racial equity, we seek inclusion on every level of this program.
So what does inclusion mean, in action? It means ensuring we engage with a diverse group of advisors, reconsidering our traditional marketing efforts to reach the entire community, offering extra technical assistance to nonprofits and removing any other barriers to access for organizations with smaller capacity that are inadvertently excluded from grant opportunities.
Finally, if we want to see a diverse philanthropic sector that is truly equipped to respond to community needs, it is critical for us to mobilize smaller nonprofits that better represent the communities they’re serving. While measurable outcomes are an important consideration for investment, so often our expectations for sophisticated evaluation systems and sleek marketing materials result in the unintentional exclusion of many small but worthy organizations.
In order to address the opportunities gap within our sector, these grassroots organizations need increased capital for capacity building. This year, Trident United Way’s Investment Cycle will include a funding pool specifically for small, grassroots nonprofits. Many of Coastal Community Foundation’s competitive grant programs allow nonprofits to request funding for operations – a critical opportunity for smaller nonprofits to build capacity.
As we look to the future, we see great potential for a more equitable community. Authentically representing diversity, inclusion and equity within our sector is a first step.
If you would like to know more about Coastal Community Foundation’s or Trident United Way’s work to promote equity and inclusion in philanthropy please contact Ali Titus or Quinetha Frasier.