With more than half of the global workforce at risk of losing jobs and wages, and the projected 12% decrease in remittance flow worldwide, the question of the sustainability of these forms of generosity is difficult to ignore. After all, the social, health and economic issues Black communities around the globe are facing are deep-seated and have only been exacerbated by the global health crisis.
Americans are a generous people. Despite the headlines garnered by large foundations and charities, on average, more than 70% of donations come from individuals. One ten-year index ranks the US as the most charitable country in the world; respondents surveyed had donated to charities, volunteered, and helped a stranger in need in the past month. We’ve noted in previous essays that the Black community is an active participant in charitable endeavors like these and others not captured in a typical survey.
There is little empirical data about philanthropy in response to natural or man-made disasters, however, “substantial anecdotal evidence testifies to Americans’ generosity in the wake of recent, large-scale catastrophes,” according to Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. We know that about 30% of Americans made a disaster related donation in 2017 and 2018, the first- and fourth-most costly years of major natural disasters on record. Similar giving declined in subsequent years.
The pandemic and its aftermath stand to blow away those records for costly disasters, even without causing damage to any infrastructure. The economic impact is still being tallied, but with widespread unemployment, shuttered businesses, and commerce largely frozen, we can reasonably guess that charitable giving will decline this year as it did in previous recessions.
In recent weeks our nation’s leaders, leading healthcare institutions, and think tanks have started to grapple with the devastating and disproportionate effects COVID-19 is having on communities of color, and Black communities in particular. Longstanding disparities in education, healthcare, access to food, shelter, and jobs laid the foundation for the Black community to be devastated by indefinite stay-at-home orders, disparate access to testing, school shutdowns, and layoffs.
If giving overall is likely to take a hit, what is the role of Black giving in these most difficult of times?
"We're the Ones We've Been Waiting For"
The current global health pandemic and ongoing economic crisis will continue to have a tremendous impact on private philanthropy. This is a fact. Therefore, we cannot ignore how it will impact Black giving in both the short and long-term.
So while the world of philanthropy pauses to consider the implications of COVID-19 on giving, black philanthropy has an opportunity to envision new and innovative ways to address and improve the state of Black people that the crisis has laid bare. In April, a collective of African writers warned that “history is watching us and will condemn us if we allow ourselves to conjugate our future in the past tense.”
Our journey to unpack Black philanthropic giving has provided insight into how these changes may take shape and where we should look. To get a sense of the laudable and sizable ways Black business leaders, activists, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens are pulling together resources to support their communities both locally and globally, we pulled some data, surveyed friends and colleagues and surfed the web extensively. Here’s what we uncovered.
Partnerships Abound: The fight against the coronavirus has brought about unlikely partnerships. Like never before, public-private partnerships have been quickly sprouting and mobilizing to tackle countless health and economic issues. Entities like the IMF, in partnership with the African Union, WHO, and the African Development Bank, announced the disbursement of $11 billion to 32 African countries, Haiti, Solomon Island, and others. The African Development Bank launched $3 million Fight COVID-19 Social Bond to support areas such as vaccine research.
Small Business is Big Business: Small businesses are the economic backbone of economies around the globe. In the US alone, they make up about 44% of the US economic activity and they have been significantly impacted during this pandemic. According to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, 500,000 independent restaurants and 11 million jobs are expected to be lost. To make matters worse, Black business owners have spoken out about the structural flaws of many of the government-funded relief packages. In response to this, Black policy makers and business owners like Liberian native, Richlieu Dennis, Senator Kamala Harris, and Representative Ayanna Pressley launched a $1 million fund and are proposing a $125 billion plan to ensure that minority business owners get the relief they need.
The Local is Global: In an unprecedented move, Morrocan citizens partnered with their national government and the private sector to raise over $650,000 via SMS towards a national solidarity fund. Moroccans living abroad can also donate to the fund by contacting Moroccan embassies in their countries of residency.
Supporting COVID Relief Efforts
Although these black-led philanthropic efforts are not often featured in mainstream media, they demonstrate the creative ways Black activists at all levels are leveraging their platforms to tackle issues from multiple angles. They also are a good guide for how you too can support the community. Consider the following -
Partner with Community Organizations. Look for funder collaboratives, or other types of consortia so your dollars to get nonprofits in larger chunks, instead of a few individual donations here and there. BET’s virtual “Saving Our Selves” virtual event which raised $16 million in individual and private sector donations for 50 community organizations across the nation has a great list of community organizations that are supporting predominantly black communities across the US. Black Benefactors, a progressive Black giving circle has also highlighted vetted community organizations that they are supporting and are encouraging others to support here.
Support Small Business. It may not be tax-deductible, but supporting a small business directly is always an option. Gift cards, online orders, or even direct contributions provide general operating support, which is the best way to help right away. If you can, check with the business to see what kind of support is most useful to them right now. To get you started, check out these Black-owned marketplaces - Shoppe Black, BLK+GRN, Nubian Hueman, WeBuyBlack.
Connect with a Mutual Aid Network. In the short-term, supporting mutual aid networks like the Metro Atlanta Mutual Aid Fund and food banks are a good way to meet immediate needs in the US and abroad. Given the nature of the pandemic, they may be in demand for a long time. Also consider allocating your donations to organizations that have a sustainable, long-term outlook and the capacity to support recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Join a Diaspora Movement. For those of us that have a foot in a part of the world and our hearts and families in another part of the world, it can be difficult to know where to lend our support. So why not try to do both? The 26-year old US-Rwanda Community Abroad (USRCA) is partnering with the Rwandan government to provide food and essential supplies to those in need through the COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund has set aside $1 million of its $6 million fund in response to COVID. Check your local or regional diaspora organization to see their response. Finally, the African Diaspora Fights Coronavirus, a taskforce of Africans in the diaspora across Europe and North America has launched a series of fundraising campaigns to support community organizations in Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Ivory Coast.
Across the globe, ordinary citizens have taken matters in their own hands to provide food and other essential resources to communities in need. We’d love to hear how you’re engaging in philanthropy and supporting organizations and businesses during this time.
It’s commendable the tremendous impact these relief efforts are making in a short period of time. However, the dent the novel coronavirus is expected to make is more than anyone could have expected. With more than half of the global workforce at risk of losing jobs and wages, and the projected 12% decrease in remittance flow worldwide, the question of the sustainability of these forms of generosity is difficult to ignore. After all, the social, health and economic issues Black communities around the globe are facing are deep-seated and have only been exacerbated by the global health crisis. As the pandemic continues to evolve and coping with it becomes a way of life, what will happen to these relief efforts? How might Black communities sustain themselves through philanthropy?
We may not know what’s ahead, but we’re certain that this moment presents a unique opportunity for Black philanthropy to bring forward lessons learned from our history of collective giving and to re-envision how we can once again scale our efforts to decisively tackle the many issues that affect our communities. This is a moment for us to consider the gaps in our collective philanthropy infrastructure, how we are nurturing the next generation of private donors, and appropriately positioning grassroots organizers, fundraisers, and international development agencies to properly tailor their approaches to effectively meet the needs of Black people around the world. We welcome your thoughts on how this moment will change Black philanthropy.