Detroit Regional Chamber > Racial Justice & Economic Equity > The Changing Color of Philanthropy

The Changing Color of Philanthropy

July 24, 2023

Michigan Chronicle
Lynzee Mychael

July 22, 2023

Philanthropy has always been a powerful force in driving social change and addressing societal inequalities. However, in recent years, there has been a significant shift in the demographics of philanthropy, with a noticeable increase in the participation of Black individuals and communities. This change is not only evident in personal giving but also extends to corporate leadership, particularly here in Detroit where a rising number of Black directors are reshaping the landscape of businesses and their philanthropic endeavors.

For many years, philanthropy has been primarily dominated by individuals and institutions from white backgrounds. While their contributions have undoubtedly had a significant impact, there has been a noticeable absence of diverse perspectives and voices in the decision-making processes that shape philanthropic initiatives. Unfortunately, this underrepresentation has hindered the effectiveness and inclusivity of philanthropic efforts in adequately addressing the needs of marginalized communities.

The shift towards a more diverse and inclusive philanthropic landscape is a positive development that brings fresh perspectives and new approaches to the table. Black leaders and communities are increasingly stepping forward to engage in philanthropy, leveraging their unique experiences and insights to tackle systemic issues and promote social change. This new wave of philanthropists is reshaping the priorities, strategies, and impact of philanthropic organizations.

Nikia Washington, co-chair of The Soul of Philanthropy (TSOP) Michigan, stated that the shift in representation in philanthropy boils down to  accountability and collaboration. TSOP Michigan is an enthusiastic volunteer collective committed to bringing the nation’s most highly regarded interactive celebration of Black philanthropy to the state of Michigan. The organization advocates for “giving Black” and reframing philanthropy.

“We want to call out ourselves as Black people, as Black communities and as philanthropists. We want us to know we are philanthropists, and that we have been doing it for centuries.  It goes back to our cultural roots before that brought us across the Atlantic. How we show up in community spaces is nothing new.  We’ve been doing this collective nature of giving, no matter how much we have,” said Washington.

One of the remarkable aspects of redefining the concept of philanthropy is that it expands the ways in which we can make a positive impact. Philanthropy is no longer solely determined by the size of a donation or the financial capacity of an organization. It encompasses acts of service and the act of looking out for our neighbors. By offering support, implementing programs, creating opportunities and uplifting the communities around us, we actively contribute to their growth and development. Philanthropy is a multifaceted endeavor that goes beyond monetary contributions, and it plays a vital role in building stronger communities.

The changing color of philanthropy in Detroit is transforming the way businesses engage with the community and contribute to social causes. Black directors are bringing their unique perspectives and lived experiences to the forefront, enabling them to identify and address the specific needs of marginalized communities. By leveraging their influence and resources, these leaders are championing initiatives that aim to create equitable opportunities, improve educational systems, enhance healthcare access and support economic development in underprivileged neighborhoods.

The appointments of Lisa Whitmore Davis as director of BasBlue Foundation, Sherelle Hogan’s remarkable work with Pure Heart Foundation, and Britta Brown’s impactful role as senior director of Basketball Administration highlight another notable shift in philanthropy and leadership. With an increasing number of women occupying these positions, the field becomes even more exciting and demonstrates a significant change in gender representation within philanthropic and leadership roles.

This shift in philanthropic leadership in Detroit is not an isolated phenomenon but part of a broader trend. Across the country, Black elites and communities are increasingly taking center stage in philanthropic endeavors, challenging the traditional philanthropic model and introducing innovative strategies for social change. This shift not only amplifies the voices of marginalized communities but also contributes to a more inclusive and equitable society.

It is important to acknowledge that the changing color of philanthropy is not about exclusion but about expanding the table to include a diverse range of perspectives and experiences. This shift does not undermine the contributions of traditional philanthropists but enhances the effectiveness and impact of philanthropy by embracing the power of diversity and representation.

As the demographics of philanthropy continue to evolve, it is crucial for individuals, organizations and institutions to recognize the value of diverse voices and actively promote inclusivity in their giving practices. By embracing this change and working collaboratively, philanthropic efforts can better address the complex and interconnected challenges faced by our society.

The changing color of philanthropy signifies a new era of social impact, one that is rooted in diversity, representation, and inclusivity. As Black individuals and communities assume leadership roles in philanthropy, they are reshaping the priorities, strategies, and outcomes of philanthropic initiatives. This shift not only holds promise for addressing systemic inequalities but also represents a significant step towards a more just and equitable society for all.