In the fall of 2021, a diverse and inclusive workgroup came together to design The United Way for Southeastern Michigan Racial Equity Fund. The Fund was designed to provide all people with authentic inclusion and equitable access to resources and opportunities. To date, the Fund is at nearly $1 million and has been distributed to several organizations to empower those most harmed by systemic oppression. While the Fund is a pivotal initiative that will help a lot of people, we must recognize why the Fund was needed in the first place. There are three key reasons why Black-led organizations need our ongoing support.
Reason #1: Black-led organizations are drastically under-funded
A report by The Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group found that even in Black communities, Black-led organizations had 45 percent less revenue and 91 percent less unrestricted net assets than white-led organizations. This sentiment is echoed in a study by the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy, which found that "the combined funding to Black communities is 1 percent of all community foundation funding while the combined Black population is 15 percent, resulting in an underfunding of Black communities of $2 billion."
Reason #2: Black-led organizations provide equitable programming
Centering Community Voice: A Blueprint for Incorporating Lived Experience into the Grantmaking Progress is a report prepared on behalf of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. The report was created to "bring awareness to the need for the voice of the community to be centered in our work." A key component of equitable programming is inviting those impacted by the work to help design the programs. Listening to the lived experiences of those in the community being served and offering them an opportunity to take an active role in the organization deepens trust, strengthens relationships, and yields impactful programs.
Reason #3: Black-led organizations will need support once they stop being trendy
In recent years, the spike in awareness of social justice needs has increased generosity toward Black-led organizations. But what happens when that stops being trendy? "Not only do Black-led nonprofits need lasting and long-term support, but philanthropy needs to wrestle with its past failures to invest in the very communities we claim to be working for," says Liz Dozier and Candice Jones in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Black-led organizations can effectively aid in closing the racial wealth gap in America, but they can't do it alone. They need the ongoing financial support of philanthropies that are committed to the elimination of racial disparities.
The challenges that Black-led organizations face are significant but not insurmountable. By addressing their disproportionate percentage of funding; valuing the lived experience they bring to equitable programming; and committing to long-term aid, it is possible to create lasting change in some of our most vulnerable communities.