Tracey Webb is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BlackGivesBack.com and is founder of The Black Benefactors, a philanthropic giving circle that supports nonprofit organizations serving the African-American community in the Washington, DC region. Huffington Post Black Voices lauds Webb as “a young black woman making history as the first online chronicler of black philanthropy.” She has nearly 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and grant making sectors.
African-Americans have a long history and strong tradition of giving in times of need. From paying tithes and offerings in church to aiding friends and neighbors in times of crisis, giving has always been a fundamental part of Black culture. At various points in history, the resources of mainstream society were inaccessible to African-Americans. To meet the needs of their communities they generated their own capital, oftentimes by pooling funds. This culture of collective giving, dating back to mutual aid societies has seen a resurgence in recent years in the form of giving circles. The Community Investment Network (CIN) develops giving circles among people of color, provides technical assistance and sustains existing giving circles through strategic donor education. I sat down with Chad Jones, Executive Director of CIN to learn more about his work as leader of the growing movement to harness African-American’s “time talent and treasure”.
Webb: As Executive Director of Community Investment Network, what are some goals you want to accomplish?
Jones: The mission of CIN states that we inspire, connect and strengthen African Americans and communities of color to leverage their collective resources. One of my primary goals is to ensure that I intentionally engage and connect with our own members as the new senior executive of our organization. We are a national organization and it is my plan to conduct national conference calls, as well as make it a priority to visit each member circle as soon as logistically feasible. During that “up close and personal” tour, I plan to listen intently, not only about the concerns, but also about the success stories of each circle.
Thus, I hope to creatively tell more of the stories about CIN members, giving circles and community philanthropy. Philanthropy in communities of color looks different and is less acknowledged even though Blacks and people of color have been doing it since arriving in North America – whether hundreds of years ago during slavery, or those who have come in the second golden wave of immigration since 2000. Undoubtedly, another one of my goals is to publish (through technology) the rich heritage of our families and institutions within the network, which will allow us an opportunity to inspire and strengthen each other.
Webb: How is CIN helping to advance black philanthropy?
Jones: Most giving, or philanthropy, is done by individuals. In Black communities, historically that generosity has been bestowed upon a family member, neighbor, or church in time of need. We are advancing philanthropy by focusing on social justice and addressing the policy (legal, financial and political) structures impeding Black communities and other communities of color. We engage people at the grassroots level, rather than dictate to people how benevolent they should be or what they should donate. We acknowledge that people know the immediate and systemic needs of their communities’ best. So, we listen in order to share eight years of institutional knowledge appropriately. We are building spaces and places that are predominantly people of color. We offer camaraderie and unity, and are equipped with powerful tools and a robust support system of colleagues. CIN members are strategic, empathetic, and an actively engaged group of people. Young and old.
Webb: Giving circles are increasing in popularity as a way to give back. Can you share more about what a giving circle is?
Jones: A giving circle is a group of people who pool resources to leverage social capital, financial capital and other resources to grow what we, in CIN, call the supply side of philanthropy. A giving circle offers better solutions since members of a circle come from that same community. You can start a circle by organizing a few friends and acquaintances to come together to address solving a common cause or community social need. Thereby, assembling periodically to have a series of discussions to figure out how, when, and where they will their pool resources (financial, social, political capital, etc) and share knowledge and resources in order to collectively have a sustainable impact on their community. One of our mottos in CIN is “investing our time, talent, and treasure.” People of all social classes collectively possess resources that can make a vital contribution to the quality of life for people. This is inclusive philanthropy.
Webb: I am a member of a social group that raises funds and provides resources for organizations in my community. Is this the same thing as a giving circle? Can CIN provide support for our efforts?
Jones: Absolutely. Your group is very much a giving circle. The benefits that CIN offers member circles include: a sense of community of Blacks and people of color who are strategically giving back in communities across the country; a menu of institutional knowledge and a dedicated crew who are addressing the challenges of launching, operating, and sustaining giving circles. Furthermore, CIN provides donor education; and travel scholarships to attend CIN events, and other events pertaining to philanthropy and communities of color. The CIN family has a shared identity that comes with shared experiences and shared values. A collective identity fosters a sense of trust, connection and interdependence, minimizing the risk that no individual circle faces their challenges alone. CIN provides members with a regional and national perspective to complement their local experience.
Webb: Is there anything else you'd like to say about Black Philanthropy and the culture of collective giving?
Jones: Philanthropy can look differently and affect change profoundly in the 21st century, and the Network’s expanding number of giving circles and donors of color are indicators of the transformative shifts occurring. I embrace this opportunity to work in concert with CIN's board, members and philanthropic partners as we make leaps and bounds forward, collectively as a catalyst for change in African American communities and across the nation’s vast spectrum of communities of color.”