Thought Leadership

Honoring Black Philanthropy Month with Philanthropy Unbound

On August 27th MIE’s VP of Programs, Monique Aiken, participated in Philanthropy Unbound’s inaugural celebration of Black Philanthropy Month, bringing together experts across a variety of fields to discuss the needs and opportunities for philanthropy to advance racial equity. The following is a brief Q&A between Monique and Philanthropy Unbound founder, Renée Joslyn, exploring why Philanthropy Unbound developed this special program and how foundations can invest in communities and transform systems.   
Many of the themes raised in the Q&A below will continue to appear throughout MIE programming for the remainder of the year and into the future. Indeed, racial equity has been a theme for MIE over the last few years, and we have curated a microsite to help others along on their journey. Focusing on impact investing is new to Philanthropy Unbound, but as demand grows, so are programming and offerings to encompass a variety of critical needs. 
Monique: What is Philanthropy Unbound, and why were you celebrating Black Philanthropy Month? Also, when did that become a thing? I just learned that Black Philanthropy had a month when I was invited to your gathering.
Renée: Philanthropy Unbound (Unbound) is an advisory firm that works with philanthropists, foundations and corporations, to build grantmaking and community development programs ( Black Philanthropy Month (BPM), held every August, is an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving, recognized by the United Nations as part of its Declaration of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. It invites all Black communities and their allies to take August and beyond to promote the power of giving to transform lives. 
I thought it was appropriate for Unbound to participate in BPM activities this year, because many of our clients have been focused on racial equity and supporting communities of color — Black communities in particular — and we thought it would be important to lift up some of the great work that is happening. 
Monique: You had a number of speakers share their work during the program. Why did you select those voices, and how did they fit your overall goal for the evening?
Renée: Since philanthropy is really about the “love of people,” I wanted to make sure that we did not only focus on institutional philanthropy in our gathering. When we hear the word “philanthropy,” we often think only of the Ford Foundations and Rockefeller Foundations of the world. Seldomly do people think about all of the other work that also supports people, such as nonprofits, activists, investors, and more. 
We heard from Nicholas Turner, President and Director of the Vera Institute of Justice, who discussed the over-policing and imprisonment of communities of color, and the economic and social impacts of this racial disparity. There was a presentation by The Marcy Lab School founders,  Maya Bhattacharjee and Reuben Ogbonna focused on new pathways to careers in tech for youth. In addition, there were two opportunities for people to get more involved in supporting and enhancing philanthropy. First with a conversation with Rhoden Monrose, Founder and CEO, CariClub — an organization that recruits, trains, and places young professionals on nonprofit Boards. 
Then Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO of the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), rounded it out with a compelling address on the importance of being involved in organizations with a mission to support Black communities in order to facilitate real change. 
Monique, the people on your "Re-imagining Philanthropy" panel — Majora Carter, of the Majora Carter Group; Bharathi Sethumadhaven, Program Officer at The Clark Estates; and Duanecia Evans, Senior Managing Director of Black Community Alliances at Teach for America  are great examples of how different types of work can support Black people and be considered an expression of philanthropy, including impact investing and urban revitalization. 
Monique: Why did you want someone on the “Re-imagining Philanthropy” panel to talk about impact investing, and what were you hoping the audience would learn?
Renée: I thought it was important for someone to talk about impact investing, because there is still so much unknown about it in the Black community, both in terms of building personal portfolios as well as creating social good in the world. I purposely made that the only panel discussion in the day’s line-up, because I wanted folks to hear from various organizations doing the work in communities and figuring out different ways to connect people with each other and resources. I was hoping people would learn about what’s out there and start thinking about the building blocks of growing generational wealth. I was pleased when you shared during your panel real examples of black founders of investment management firms like Allan Boomer from Momentum Advisors, and other founders across asset classes like Daryn Dodson, Illumen Capital (Private Equity), Kesha Cash, Impact America Fund (Venture Capital) and Kelly Burton, from Founders of Color (an Atlanta-based entrepreneurs network).
Monique: If Philanthropy Unbound achieves its mission, what would the world look like?
Renée: Well, the mission of Unbound, is to enhance the understanding of and increase the practice of philanthropy. If this is achieved, everyone would live their lives in service to others in a way that aligns with their passion or work, and the need that they see around them. It would not be a burden, but instead second nature to always positively build and support community — whatever community looks like to the giver. We are about democratizing philanthropy.
Special thanks to Renée for continuing this important conversation after the event! 

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