Report Examines Characteristics of African-American Family Foundations

A growing number of African-American philanthropists are relying on family foundations for their charitable giving, preferring to put their trust in organizations they are close to and that aid the African-American community, a new report from the Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation finds.

Written by historian and University of Pennsylvania associate professor Marybeth Gasman, the report, A Growing Tradition? Examining the African American Family Foundation (27 pages, PDF), examined founder motivation and background, geographic location, assets and management, board member and staff composition, and goals and donation targets for African-American family foundations, a topic which previously had been all but unstudied.

Among other things, the report found that African-American family foundations have been created largely by professional athletes, followed (in number) by musicians, actors, doctors, and business professionals; that founders were motivated to create their foundations by a desire to give back to their communities, have a significant influence on the world, and positively impact disadvantaged children; and that most family foundations are located in states with high concentrations of African Americans, including California, New York, Georgia, and Illinois.

In the report, Gasman writes: "Increasing the nation's understanding of African-American giving will help the majority culture to see blacks as full participants in American society. Perhaps through their family foundations, African Americans will become more visible agents of change and will no longer be viewed, by some, as merely passive recipients of the generosity of others."

"A Growing Tradition? Examining the African American Family Foundation" Aspen Institute Press Release 04/27/2010.