A study on Black philanthropy commissioned by the Liberty Hill Foundation seeks to increase giving to what it terms “social justice” programs by redirecting some of that philanthropy from traditional beneficiaries. One institution that could be hurt is the Black church, even though it has been one of the nation’s greatest advocates for social justice.
Further, many activists have long maintained that Black dollars barely circulate in the African American community as is, and it is the one ethnic community where unemployment is highest, meaning there are fewer dollars to circulate.
The study was commissioned in 2011 and is authored by USC professor Ange-Marie Hancock, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and gender studies.
“Historically Black churches have been the site of much African American philanthropy,” the study says in its conclusion. “In our survey, most respondents perceived Black churches as generating ‘the most financial support from the Black community,’ dwarfing perceived gifts to historically Black charities such as the United Negro College Fund, or to Black political campaigns, multiracial churches and charities, or predominantly White charities such as the United Way.”
In its introduction, the study acknowledges that “African Americans have a long history of philanthropy.
Most Black service organizations–whether fraternities, sororities, or civic organizations like the Links or the Masons–have included both philanthropy and volunteerism in their mission and activities.
Independent Black churches and religious denominations have long received the bulk of Black charitable donations to support social services and social movements alike. However, most African Americans still shy away from identifying as ‘philanthropists’ per se, no matter their level of participation in giving.”
The study discusses three donor profiles–the “Building the Black Community” donor, the “Issue Impact” donor and the “Hardwired to Give” donor. These classes of donors were identified “based on their reports of discretionary income allocations, preferred recipient of the giving, motivations for giving, levels of education and religious involvement.”
The study sought to answer the questions:
1–Do African American donors in Los Angeles fall into particular profile categories based on the reason for giving? In what ways do African Americans engage in identity-oriented giving?
2–What percentage of African American philanthropy is directed toward social justice and grassroots community organizing?
3–How might Black giving for social justice grow?
The “Building the Black Community” donors were found to be “more concerned that their dollars go to organizations that target African American recipients,” reports the study. These donors “are likely to have more education, attend church frequently, and see their giving to family as part of what it takes to rebuild the African American community.”
The “Issue Impact” donors were found to be “more concerned with the issues they care about than the identity of the people affected by the issue.” Hancock found that “this second type of identity-based Black donor sees themselves as a ’cause person’ and is likely to be passionate about one or more specific causes that drive their donor behavior” and “are more likely to connect with donors across age, race, and class who share similar policy goals.”
The “Hardwired to Give” donors, Hancock found, “have a different definition of identity-based giving.
They embrace giving as part of their personal identity, but are also identifiable by the public as well as their private behavior.” These are donors who are “most likely to embrace the title ‘philanthropist.’ They tend to give money “across the board–to churches, political campaigns, social service agencies, family or friends, and social justice advocacy/organizing–rather than to a specific issue or focus on a specific target population.”
With the motto of “Change. Not Charity,” the Liberty Hill Foundation credits itself for being “first at the front lines for change for more than 30 years.” Among the main issues identified on its website are the environment, lesbian and gay rights, as well as poverty and economic justice.
Sarah Pillsbury, heir of the Pillsbury fortune, co-founded the organization (along with Win McCormack, Anne Mendel and Larry Janss) in 1976. Born in Minnesota, Pillsbury came to Los Angeles in 1974 after graduating from Yale and entered film school at UCLA. Along with Midge Sanford, she has produced such films as “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “River’s Edge” and “Eight Men Out,” among others.
One of the study’s purposes is to find opportunities to grow support for “philanthropic investment in social justice-focused community organizing.”
The study suggests four steps for accomplishing this:
* Educate mainstream Black Los Angeles about philanthropy and the returns a collective investment in social justice can produce.
* Stress that generational differences among Black donors matter. Pay attention to Millenials. It suggests that a wave of Millenials, those born between 1982 and 2000, who think differently about “their affinity with the Black community in relationship to donor behavior” is emerging. This group, the study says, “is less concerned about helping Black communities exclusively. This difference in racial affinity for younger, educated, mainstream Black America may produce approaches to philanthropy that are less focused solely on race.”
* Build the case across racial constituencies for a broad agenda, including Black specific concerns.
* Craft new collaborations with Black churches.
The study points out that “many Black organizations are going through transitions in terms of reaching new generations and new demographics on the issues they care about. Previously excluded sectors of the Black community seek honest and open conversation with church leaders to refine the contemporary social justice agenda.”
On Tuesday, the foundation will hold it Upton Sinclair Awards dinner at the Beverly Hilton at 9876 Wilshire Blvd.