As February / Black History Month comes to a close and March / Women’s History Month dawns, a focus on excellence in leadership is fitting to uplift all that is deserving of philanthropic and social impact investment. Focusing on the struggles of our past has its place – so that we never forget. But highlighting the excellence in our legacies provides a vital and proactive perspective. A focus on Black Excellence and Entrepreneurship for the Black History Month event at my son’s school spanned from a youth entrepreneur to a woman in her third career and many examples in between. As I witnessed the stories of risk taking, failing forward and iterative business building, I thought about how philanthropy across Ohio is responding to recognize and support excellence in Black and Brown-led organizations and communities. To name but a few…
The Cleveland Black Futures Fund at The Cleveland Foundation strengthens the ecosystem of Black leaders and Black-serving organizations in Greater Cleveland by providing intentional resources to help grow organizational infrastructure and capacity. Long term, the fund aims to deepen the field of leaders working to dismantle systemic racism and advance the community towards racial equity.
The Community Foundation of Lorain County, along with the Nordson Corporation Foundation, has developed the Racial Equity Fund to provide grants to organizations working to improve race relations and bring impactful changes.
The Racial Equity & Justice Grant Program of the Marion Community Foundation provides funding to organizations looking to improve racial equity and justice in Marion County by advancing matters of fairness and justice, with a critical focus on the systems that affect communities of color – specifically economic and social justice.
The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Racial Justice Fund advances matters of fairness and justice with a critical focus on the systems that affect the Black community, specifically criminal, economic and social justice. More broadly, the fund seeks to address the root causes of systemic racism through policy change.
While these and other funds across the state are responding to the racial unrest over the last year, many in our network have had funds supporting and growing philanthropy for many years, including the Dayton Foundation’s African-American Community Funds, The Cleveland Foundation’s African American Philanthropy Committee Legacy Fund, The Springfield Foundation’s African American Community Family of Funds and others. In addition, scholarship funds such as the Licking County NAACP Scholarship Fund at the Licking County Foundation and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Book Scholarship at Muskingum County Community Foundation are just a couple offering support for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) Ohioans.
The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) offers its framework on Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities to build upon grantmaking with a racial equity lens, tailored specifically to grantmaking in and for Black communities to build leadership capacity and strengthen the infrastructure of its core institutions. Giving that builds on the strengths and assets of Black leaders and core institutions that support Black communities is critical.
At the intersection of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, we acknowledge that women-led solutions are boldly addressing not only racial equity, but economic mobility, health equity, environmental justice and policies to support women workers through COVID-19 recovery and rebuilding.
Philanthropy Ohio members across the state harness the giving power of women to support myriad solutions to issues affecting women and girls and also uplift awareness and disaggregated data to illuminate those issues and inspire new solutions. They also elevate the accomplishments and potential for women and girls to lead impactful work in their communities.
One example is the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio’s launch of the Enduring Progress Initiative. It prioritizes investments in organizations run by and for women and girls of color with a goal to invest more boldly and more disruptively in equitable solutions driven by nonprofits. “Women of color are the architects of equity in their communities,” describes Women’s Fund President and CEO Kelley Griesmer. “We need to creatively invest in them and their vision, not just their survival.” The Women’s Fund is positioning itself as “social venture capitalists” with an inaugural seed investment awarded to LC Johnson, CEO of Zora’s House, which is a nonprofit coworking and community space with women of color in mind. Seeded by initial investments from Crane Group, Kaiser Consulting and The Women's Fund's own endowment, the Enduring Progress Initiative will infuse courageous capital into transformational nonprofit ventures.
While each of these months provides opportunities to shine a light on the incredible work happening in our communities and supported by philanthropy, we know that it is the continuing investment in these efforts that will have a real impact. So, let’s not wait until next year but rather develop a practice of using racial and gender equity lenses in our philanthropy year-round.
Stay tuned! Later this spring, we’re launching a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) assessment tool to help funders evaluate their internal operations in terms of DEI and employ an equity lens in their work moving forward.
Deborah Aubert Thomas
President & CEO, Philanthropy Ohio