Black Women Are Redefining What It Means to Be a Philanthropist

Black Philanthropy Month reminds us there’s more than one way to give back

Candice Marie Benbow
ZORA
Published in
6 min readAug 28, 2019

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Photo: Hero Images / Getty Images

AAccording to a recent study conducted by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Black women are redefining what it means to be philanthropists. “Women Give 2019,” the first study of its kind to explore the intersections of race, gender, and giving, found that women of color are engaging in more informal ways of giving back. Whether through crowdfunding, mobile apps, or creating new initiatives to directly impact their communities, Black women are successfully navigating nontraditional philanthropic efforts to work in their communities and create change.

The study highlighted the work of the South Side Giving Circle, the first initiative led by Black women to mobilize philanthropic resources to equip Black women-led organizations assisting Black girls and women on Chicago’s South Side. In its inaugural year, 34 women from various educational, professional, and socioeconomic experiences awarded $34,000 to five organizations focused on the key issues of health, economic empowerment, and freedom from violence. Now in its second year, the self-proclaimed “queen-makers” have doubled in size to 64 members and are set to invest $60,000 back into their community. “It was intentional,” says Nicole Robinson, Giving Circle founding member and vice president of community impact at the Chicago Food Bank. “They’re not what would be described as the traditional donor in the philanthropic space but they come to this work with the idea they can change the trajectory of women and girls in their community. It’s just a great example of how women are collectively coming together to do this work.”

AsAs Black women join forces, it highlights the apparent disparities present in giving back. While the study found that race was not a determinant factor in current philanthropic trends, traditional understandings of philanthropy still exclude communities of color. “We’re talking about a model of philanthropy that was never built to include us,” says Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. “We’ve been given the model that you create wealth, then you create a tax shelter called a foundation to protect that wealth and, by the way, you can give back in the process…

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Candice Marie Benbow
ZORA
Writer for

Candice Marie Benbow is a theologian, essayist and creative who situates her work at the intersections of beauty, faith, feminism and culture.