Community foundations underfunding Black communities, study finds

Community foundations underfunding Black communities, study finds

Only a small percentage of funding from community foundations in several cities with large African-American populations is awarded to organizations that serve African Americans in need, an issue brief from the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy finds. 

Based on grantmaking data from twenty-five community foundations, the brief, Black funding denied: Community foundation support for Black communities, found that only 1 percent of funding awarded between 2016 and 2018 was specifically designated to benefit Black communities, even though 15 percent of the combined population of the the twenty-five cities is African American. In addition, the brief found that none of the foundations in the analysis funded initiatives in support of Black communities at a rate commensurate with African Americans' share of the local population. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, for example, earmarked 3.2 percent of its grant dollars specifically for African Americans, who represent 35 percent of the city's residents, while the Black Belt Community Foundation in Selma, Alabama, where African Americans account for 58 percent of the population, awarded 9.4 percent of its grant dollars in support of Black communities. Similarly, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation designated only 0.4 percent of its grant dollars specifically for Black communities, which represent 12 percent of the region's population, while the New York Community Trust awarded just 4.2 percent of its grant dollars in support of Africa Americans, who comprise 15 percent of the city's population.

The analysis also found that 66.7 percent of all grant dollars awarded by the twenty-five foundations funded direct services, while only 3.1 percent supported structural change efforts. By comparison, only 8.3 percent of the funds designated specifically to benefit Black communities supported structural change efforts, while 61 percent supported direct services. 

"Funding Black communities at a rate commensurate with their relative size is a floor for equitable funding, not a ceiling," said NCRP vice president and chief engagement officer Jeanné Lewis. "The bottom line is that community foundations have neglected their charge to serve their full communities. Regardless of why, we must immediately address how Black Americans have been excluded from community foundation grantmaking writ large."

"When we talk about applying a racial equity lens in philanthropy, a core aspect of the work is using data to address racial disparities," said Denise St. Omer, vice president of grantmaking and inclusion initiatives at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. "In this moment when many community foundations are leaning into the work of advancing racial equity, NCRP's report helps guide our work and inform our thinking on how we can raise awareness of the critical needs and structural barriers facing the Black community."

"Black funding denied: Community foundation support for Black communities." National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy issue brief 08/26/2020. "Too many local community foundations still underinvesting in Black communities." National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy press release 08/26/2020.