African American-Led Nonprofits in Philadelphia Struggle, Study Finds

While running a nonprofit organization is inherently challenging, those in Philadelphia led by African Americans typically have fewer resources than those led by whites, a report from the Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum finds.

Funded by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the report, How African American-Led Organizations Differ From White-Led Organizations (55 pages, PDF), articulates the unique and critical value of African American-led organizations and identifies the challenges they face. The survey of a hundred and forty-five leaders of human service organizations in Philadelphia, supplemented with qualitative research from African-American executive directors and local funders, found that organizations led by African Americans were smaller, as defined by the number of staff and volunteers, and more dependent on government funding than white-led organizations. Moreover, they typically had lower cash reserves, leaving them more vulnerable to recession and changes in local government.

The report also found that organizations led by African Americans were more likely to have African-American board members and senior staff. However, predominantly African-American boards struggled in terms of gaining access to key social networks, something that can negatively affect an organization’s access to funding.

"The knowledge that African-American nonprofit leaders bring to this community is invaluable," said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition and co-chair of PAALF. "This new research gives us a platform to build on that strength by promoting opportunities for increased collaboration, talent development, and engagement not only within African American organizations but across all sectors."

"African American-led nonprofits are critical in addressing the fundamental needs in our region as a whole and in responding to the needs of the African-American community specifically," said Jim Cawley, president and CEO of UWGPSNJ. "Our collective voices and experiences are essential in solving problems and improving education for our children, helping families move toward greater financial stability, and building stronger and healthier communities. Together, we're creating impact that transforms lives."

"Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum Unveils Research on African American-Led Nonprofits." Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum Press Release 04/28/2016.