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Diverse donors giving back

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By Ellen Barclay and Barry Gaberman

The face of the U.S. is changing and with it the face of philanthropy.

By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau projects, people of color will comprise more than half of the country’s population.

As the U.S. population has diversified, so too have the populations of those positioned to give back to their communities through philanthropy.

In New York, a group of young Asian-American finance professionals formed a giving circle that has helped the Queens Child Guidance Center hire additional social workers to serve a growing Asian-American client base.

In Houston, Tiffany Singleton rallied colleagues in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to raise $20,000 to rebuild destroyed sections of her alma mater, historically black Dillard University in New Orleans.

In Kansas City, Latino civic and business leaders have donated $1.2 million to the Hispanic Development Fund, which gives $80,000 in grants each year to area nonprofits that serve the Latino community.

These are only three examples of the diverse types of giving fueling the multi-million-dollar growth of racial, ethnic and tribal philanthropy nationwide.

Long perceived by the media and mainstream philanthropy as receivers rather than givers, it is clear that communities of color are turning that perception upside down.

The irony of the “receiver” stereotype is that communities of color have never received very much, at least not from mainstream funders.

While people of color comprise a third of the U.S. population, these communities receive less than 8 percent of all foundation grant money.

Some community and private foundations, recognizing the benefits of racial, ethnic and tribal philanthropy, are investing their dollars to engage new donors of color.

Community foundations support hundreds of racial, ethnic and tribal funds and giving circles across the country, efforts that help to engage thousands of new donors each year.

Private foundations are also investing to build the capacity of racial, ethnic and tribal philanthropy.

Since 2002, the Ford Foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $25 million to promote effective philanthropy in the African-American, Hispanic American, Asian-American and Native-American communities.

The partnerships formed between mainstream funders and racial, ethnic and tribal philanthropy are mutually beneficial.

These donors have intimate knowledge of the communities they serve and can be valuable resources for foundations.

Foundations supporting racial, ethnic and tribal philanthropy are leading the way by responding to the needs of a rapidly diversifying nation.

Additional support will be needed from mainstream funders over the next decade to engage new donors and new dollars to address community needs.


Ellen Barclay is president of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers in  Washington, D.C.. Barry Gaberman, former senior vice president of the Ford Foundation, is chair of the advisory committee for New Ventures in Philanthropy, an initiative of the Forum.

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