Study Asks: Why are Black Professionals Leaving Philanthropy?

Recent high-profile hirings and movements to tweak what philanthropy “looks like” aside, new data indicate  that an emerging trend in grantmaking is the decline of Black professionals within the field. The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE)  and members of the Black Philanthropic Network teamed up to take a deeper look at why Black professionals were leaving the philanthropic arena, where they ended up and what organizations could do to address this recent pattern.

Main findings from the report, The Exit Interview: Perceptions on Why Black Professionals leave Grant making Institutions:

  • 72 percent of respondents (the majority of whom had been or currently were in a leadership position at a grantmaking organization) believed that leadership roles for Black professionals  were not substantial within philanthropy
  • 22 percent stated they were “pushed out” of their recent position in philanthropy
  • 48 percent agreed or strongly agreed that employment outside of a philanthropic institution allowed for more on-the-ground work and contact with the community, another 32% agreed somewhat
  • Over 60 percent of respondents left philanthropy for employment with a nonprofit organization

Additional study findings, perspectives from former foundation professionals, a look a regional differences in urban philanthropy (including Pittsburgh) and recommendations regarding organizational leadership, accountability and professional growth in the complete report at the ABFE website.

Foundation Funding Trends and Areas of Interest

Trends in large foundation giving are looking optimistic based on research from the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), particularly in support for core operations and funding for programs aimed at underserved communities. The NCRP’s recently released Philanthropic Landscape 2011 series gives grantmakers and grantees alike a picture of whom is giving what where, and in which areas of interest.

According to the brief, The State of Giving to Underserved Communities 2011, by Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski, foundations reported over $10 billion in grants for the elderly, women and girls, economically disadvantaged communities and ethnic or racial minorities in 2011. Key takeaways:

  • The percentage of foundation funding reported to benefit underserved groups or areas increased to 42 percent in 2011 from 40 percent during 2008 – 2010.
  • In 2011, one in five grantmakers (22 percent) was giving 50 percent or more of grant dollars to benefit underserved communities.
  • Foundations in the western United States were more likely to fund underserved communities/marginalized groups (60 percent, although without the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation it drops to 30 percent), followed by the Northeast 35 percent, the Midwest 34 percent and the South 25 percent.
  • Not including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Independent foundations, Corporate foundations and Operating foundations were more likely to give to underserved communities or groups in 2011.

Philanthropic Landscape 2011 includes reports on trends in general operating and multi-year funding – all available at the NCRP website.


PA Juvenile Justice Scandal Restitution Payment Funds Youth Programming

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has awarded organizations in Luzerne County $2.16 million in grants to fund programming for area youth. The monies come from restitution payment from a defendant in the in the case fixing or “kids for cash scandal” that drew the attention of the FBI,  shook public confidence in court system officials and led to additonal procedural protections for youth in the juvenile justice system.

Seventeen programs were chosen out of a pool of over 50 proposals, including projects from Luzerne County Head Start, the Domestic Violence Service Center, Family Service Association of Wyoming Valley, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the creation of a new Luzerne County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. Individual award amounts and project details are included in a press release from PCCD, also  available on their website.

Philanthropy Down Under

A new report from the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology entitled, Foundations for Giving: Why and how Australians Structure their Philanthropy by Wendy Scaife, Alexandra Williamson, Katie McDonald and Susan Smyllie examines attitudes around structured giving and grant making in Australia.

Main themes that emerged from in-depth interviews with persons involved in formalized philanthropy across Australia included:

  • The “Whys” behind philanthropy.  How do values motivate giving? What is the importance of the personal “turning point” in establishing structured giving?
  • Decisions to make and who/what shapes them.  Identifying key influences/ers,  the role of peer leaders, and deciding to donate more than just money.
  • Procedural and operational decisions – the nuts and bolts of giving away money.
  • The environment around giving.  What is the state of the sector in Australia?

The findings (through not generalizable) are quite interesting, and yet, they don’t strike me as very far removed from the themes prevalent in  structured philanthropy in the United States.  Does giving in Perth look that much different from giving in Pittsburgh?