September 14, 2020

Guiding a Giving Response: Letter from Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO, ABFE

This letter is an introduction to Guiding a Giving Response to Anti-Black Injustice.

Dear Colleagues:
America is in the throes of managing several pandemics: a health crisis, an economic crisis, and the long-standing crisis of anti-Black racism. The last of the three—anti-Black racism—is the reason why people of African descent in this country (African Americans, continental Africans, Afro-Latinos, and mixed-race people who identify as Black), are disproportionately bearing the brunt of these challenges. This is an extremely difficult time for our country with so many Black businesses, communities, workers, families, and children in danger. Instability in Black communities means troubled times for the country as a whole, and philanthropy has stepped up to confront these issues. We believe the sector can and should do more.

We are pleased to work with The Bridgespan Group to share this guidance with funders on addressing anti-Black racism. It contains helpful rubrics, like our Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities framework, to help funders think about investing to build power in Black communities. At ABFE, we believe a strong infrastructure for Black social change is an essential element to eliminating anti-Black racism and securing a progressive agenda for the country. However, our report Redlining by Another Name: What the Data Says to Move from Rhetoric to Action, paints an abysmal picture of philanthropy’s practices in funding Black-led groups. We are making the case for support by philanthropy to reverse the pattern of underinvestment in Black-led organizations.

It is important to distinguish what we mean by “Black-led” for funders and donors. At ABFE, we define Black-led organizations as groups with primarily a Black board, executive leadership, staff, and constituency. ABFE is an example of this. Black-led social change organizations are those that meet this definition and aim to build power in Black communities. Many of the organizations included in this report represent these types of Black-led organizations and Black-led social change organizations, while all have Black senior leadership. We urge donors to do their own diligence to better understand the leadership dynamics of individual organizations.

“Nothing about us, without us” is a saying used frequently by Black-led organizations in the field on matters related to our community. Taking the lead from organizations with deep experience and connections to constituencies of color and racial justice (e.g., ABFEPhilanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, Hispanics in PhilanthropyAsian Americans/Pacific Islanders in PhilanthropyNative Americans in Philanthropy, etc.) must be the way that the philanthropic sector moves forward in this time of racial reckoning. Funders must build direct relationships with people of color-led groups. We look forward to a new way of working together on issues facing our community and country.

Susan Taylor Batten
President and CEO