Giving circles engage African Americans

By Danielle Jackson

In Charlotte, young professionals are seeking ways to create more collective giving among African Americans, and to expose them to strategic tools to help them give back to their communities.

In Raleigh, eight human-service providers in Wake County’s foster-care system meet regularly to address issues low-income families face.

Also in Wake County, 15 African-American men ranging in age from their late 20s to early 60s have formed A Legacy of Tradition, a group that focuses on programs that help support African Americans and Latino boys.

And in Warrenton in Northeastern North Carolina, a quilting group known as Heritage Quilters Circle that consists of about 25 women from their mid-30s to their mid-70s has evolved into a giving circle with a passion for education.

“They want to help young people understand the art of quilting, but also want to provide a vehicle for young folks to be able to go on to the next level of education, whether it be through a scholarship or camp program,” says consultant Darryl Lester.

Lester is a founding partner of HindSight Consulting, a Raleigh firm that provides tools and resources for community-based organizations and nonprofits to help them build philanthropic efforts in their communities.

HindSight is working with the four African-American giving circles in Charlotte, Wake County and Warrenton, all supported through NCGives, a $6 million donor-advised fund created at the North Carolina Community Foundation by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to promote and strengthen giving among people of color, women and young people.

Each group is in its organizing phase and is building its pot, Lester says.

A big challenge, he says, is realizing that most giving-circle participants also have full-time jobs and are not able to devote themselves entirely to the project.

“You have to structure it in a way that it’ll hopefully fit into the other stuff that’s on these people’s plates,” he says.

Another challenge is the fact many giving circles are measured against larger philanthropic institutions, he says.

“They are measured by what they give, and it’s not the way it should be measured,” he says. “When people get together to discuss issues facing their community, it creates a ripple that impacts not only the group but also other circles members are involved with.”

In all, the goal of these giving circles is to create a collective group of African-American donors who, Lester says, are beginning to understand the institutional side of philanthropy.

“When you look at giving circles, you’d be hard-pressed to find ones predominantly made up of men of color,” he says. “To have an all-male group like this makes a positive statement.”

Giving circles are “the one tool where people can get together to do some community problem-solving,” he says. “And you don’t have to be extremely wealthy in order to do it.”

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