Generosity makes generational leap

Donald Jenkins
Donald Jenkins

Ret Boney

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – While the Rev. Donald Jenkins is working to get African Americans in the Winston-Salem area more involved in philanthropy, his daughter is focusing on bringing young people into the mix.

That desire to help their community may have some genetic link, but it’s The Winston-Salem Foundation that is providing the vehicles to make it a reality.

Donald Jenkins serves as chair of The Winston-Salem Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Initiative, an effort launched in 2000 to celebrate and encourage giving in the black community.

His daughter, Brittany Jenkins, served for three years with the foundation’s Youth Grantmakers in Action program and now is in the process of starting an alumni group for past participants.

Donald Jenkins, a Kansas native and pastor at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, was involved in the black-philanthropy effort from its beginning, when it was established with funding from the foundation’s ECHO Fund and a grant from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation.

“I thought the Black Philanthropy Initiative was a way to step out into another area and work with and reach like-minded people in the community I didn’t already know,” he says. “I thought it was a great way to move beyond these four walls and get out and do something.”

Today, the group has about 15 members and plans to award $17,500 in grants this year to groups working to benefit the local community.

The Black Philanthropy Initiative began awarding grants in 2008 and last year shelled out $25,000 to benefit groups targeting financial literacy in the black community.

The grant money comes from the group’s Black Philanthropy Fund, which consists of private donations and is dedicated to funding issues that affect the African-American community, with a priority given to education, financial literacy, parenting and life-skills training.

This is Donald Jenkins’ first year as chair of the group, whose members come from all walks of life, including pastors, businessmen, attorneys and professors.

“Some are unsung heroes and haven’t had public press,” he says of his fellow committee members. “But they are making great contributions. We do hard work and make tough decisions. Rather than meeting to meet, it’s always going somewhere. We’re not just names on a committee.”

One of his primary goals as chair is to help the group increase its visibility, Jenkins says.

“I’d like the African-American community, and the community at large, to hear the heart of why we’re in existence and then be willing to participate in investing and in giving their time,” he says. “And I hope that will increase the amount of funds we have to put back into important work in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.”

His daughter, Brittany, began working with The Winston-Salem Foundation in 2005, when she was a 15-year-old high-school student.

Now 19 and a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she’s working with another former program participant to start an alumni group, which she hopes to have up and running by summer.

Jenkins says she didn’t know much about philanthropy before joining Youth Grantmakers in Action, a group of teenagers that makes grants to youth-led projects that address challenges and issues faced by young people in the community.

As a group, members are responsible for every facet of a grantmaking program, from designing and marketing a request-for-proposals, to interviewing applicants and choosing grantees.

The youth meet monthly, with each meeting focused on a different aspect of grantmaking.

Full participation by each member is encouraged, Jenkins says, particularly when choosing grantees.

“It had to be a consensus and everyone had a voice,” she says. “I really enjoyed it because everyone can express their ideas.”

Each year, the group has about $2,000 to award in grants, which it typically distributes among multiple groups.

One recent award supported a seminar that focused on race, gender and the fight for social justice, while another provided arts and craft activities for children while their parents attended meetings.

The grant dollars come from a fund at The Winston-Salem Foundation created by a former board member of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, supplemented by money raised by the members of Youth Grantmakers in Action.

“I liked that the youth were in control,” Brittany Jenkins says. “We made the decisions and got the word out there. They were really trusting with us. In school, you always have to go through an advisor and get everything approved.”

Majoring in history and working toward a minor in business, she says Youth Grantmakers in Action already has had a profound effect on her.

“It actually made me decide to go into nonprofits,” she says. “I enjoyed looking at the different ideas and how creative people could be.”

She is looking into foundations and grantmaking as a career choice, a path that, like the one her father followed, could see her serving others as a full-time job.

And while having a pastor for a father may have influenced that, so did The Winston-Salem Foundation.

“I probably would not have known about foundations if it weren’t for the fund,” she says.

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