Grassroots Giver, MOVERS & DOERS — 17/Oct/2012 01:30

Grassroots Giver: The Black Benefactors

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Tracey Webb, founder of The Black Benefactors, grew up in a family surrounded by givers. Giving back was instilled in her at an early age. So when she noticed that there were no “giving circles” supporting organizations serving the African American community in the Washington D.C. region in the early 2000s, it was natural for Webb to want to do something. In 2005, Webb founded The Black Benefactors and officially opened its doors in 2007.

“I wanted to create a vehicle for young and mid-career level professionals to give back using their time, talent and treasure,” Webb said.

With a number of social issues plaguing the black community, Webb expressed that African Americans cannot afford not to care about philanthropy and community service. “With issues such as academic achievement gap, youth violence, and the dropout rate, we can’t expect government and schools to tackle these problems without community involvement,” Webb said.

The Black Benefactors mission is to encourage philanthropy and community service in the African American and business communities in the Washington D.C. region, as well as enhance the well being of black children, youth and families.

“Research has shown that African Americans are more likely to give than other races,” Webb said. “Now that we know this, we need to ensure that our giving is strategic to address the root causes of problems that disproportionately affect us.”

Webb also added that African Americans serving their community is critical. “We’re not represented as we should be on nonprofit boards or as volunteers,” said Webb. “It’s important that the clientele served by nonprofits see staff, volunteers and board members who look like them.”

The Black Benefactors’ goals are to educate its members about the benefits of collective philanthropy, increase awareness of local needs, make investments in organizations that are directly impacting African American children, youth and families, and create a legacy of giving in the African American community as an effective vehicle for social change. They are achieving these goals by providing grants to nonprofits that serve the DC region’s African American community and using their network of members as potential board members and volunteers for the local nonprofit community.

“To date we’ve granted nearly $12,000 to organizations that provide services of mentoring, youth development, arts, and career and college readiness,” Webb said. Most of this funding comes from their membership dollars. The Black Benefactors annual membership amount is $250 per year for individuals, and $2,500 per year for businesses. Members nominate organizations for funding, and then the entire membership votes on who will receive a grant award. These grants have benefited hundreds, if not thousands of African American families in the community.

With the help of organizations such as the Black Philanthropic Alliance (BPA) and the Community Investment Network (CIN), The Black Benefactors has been able to give funding to organizations such as African Continuum Theatre Company, Germantown Hardknocks Youth Foundation and First Generation College Bound, with grants totaling $9,000.

The Black Benefactors’ hard work and determination to create an effective social change in the African American community caught the attention of Ebony magazine, who featured the organization in the August 2011 issue. “Not only was it a great accomplishment for us—it also put a spotlight on black giving circles,” Webb said. “A year later, I’m still being contacted by people who were inspired by the article and are now currently launching giving circles in their communities. It was an amazing tribute.”

If you look back at African American history—from post slavery to the civil rights movement—philanthropic giving was instrumental in allowing blacks to form their own churches, mutual aid societies and schools at a time when “separate but equal” was the law of the land. “Today, this form of collective giving is evident in the rise of giving circles across the country,” Webb said. “By pooling your dollars with those of others, you can make a significant impact by awarding larger grants. You don’t have to be wealthy to give big!”

What YOU Can Do

Become a member or donor, follow The Black Benefactors on Facebook and Twitter, attend their events, and spread the word about them. “If you’re a nonprofit organization in the DC area, we’d like to hear from you,” Webb added. “And, we hope to see you at our 5th anniversary event on Thursday, December 6. Please feel free to contact us at info@blackbenefactors.org.”

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