New Report: Reflecting Forward: Philadelphia-based Black Leaders’ Recommendations for Regional Funders

Posted by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey on June 28, 2022

Despite the heightened awareness that was amplified during the racial unrest that exploded during the pandemic, Black-led nonprofits in Philadelphia are still struggling to connect with the region’s philanthropic community.

This was one of the key findings in a report entitled, Reflecting Forward: Philadelphia-based Black Leaders’ Recommendations for Regional Funders. The report is based on semi-structured interviews with a diverse group of sixteen Black nonprofit leaders with the goal of better understanding their perspective on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the police murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans in 2020 to raise money to support their work in the Philadelphia community, according to Dr. Kelly Sloane, the primary researcher of the report. “The research design for this project intentionally centers the views, expertise, and lived experience of Black nonprofit leaders,” Dr. Sloane said. “The knowledge and perspective of Black leaders and other leaders of color deserve to be privileged – particularly when commitments to institutional, structural, and social change have reached a fever pitch. How can allies know what action to take without recommendations from Black nonprofit leaders?

The report captures three overarching recommendations made by the leaders for regional funders about how they can best support Black-led and Black-serving nonprofits operating in greater Philadelphia:

Get to Know Us: Many leaders reported significant challenges with developing respectful and fruitful relationships with regional funders and were hopeful that intentional relationship building, networking opportunities, and shared agenda setting are recommendations funders would embrace.

Embrace “Trust-based Philanthropy”: All the leaders interviewed for this study recommend that regional funders begin or continue breaking with grantmaking orthodoxies and embrace trust-based philanthropy as the sector grapples with COVID-19 recovery and equitable grantmaking practices. Among the tenets of trust-based grantmaking, the leaders in the sample universally reported that regional funders can best support Black leaders and Black-serving organizations with general operating support, including multi-year, unrestricted, and transformational gifts.

Trust Black Leaders: The overarching recommendation is for regional funders to trust Black nonprofit leaders. The nonprofit leaders interviewed recommend that regional funders stop treating Black leaders and Black-serving organizations as “incompetent” and “risky.”

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