New fund aims to build up Black-led nonprofits

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A program launched earlier this month by the Philadelphia Foundation, with the help of Facebook, aims to help Black-led nonprofits sustain their work and build up their organizational skills.

The goal of the Black Community Leaders Fund, those involved in the effort say, is to raise $5 million and begin distributing money in early June. Recipients must also serve a majority-Black population.

“A lot of these organizations are financially fragile,” said Phil Fitzgerald, executive director of grantmaking at the Philadelphia Foundation.

“They don’t have access to the same networks and the same amounts of capital, and they don’t often have the same resources,” he added.

In a study conducted in 2014 and 2015, the Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum found that nonprofits with Black leaders had smaller staffs, less cash in the bank and depended more on government funding.

As a result, they were more susceptible to economic downturns and government administration changes, according to the report.

Fitzgerald said government funding for nonprofits is usually a reimbursement model, and it can, at times, only cover 70 cents on the dollar.

Two types of grants will be distributed through the Black Community Leaders Fund, Fitzgerald. One will include flexible dollars, allowing organizations to cover costs and continue operating.

Phil Fitzgerald PHOTO: Philadelphia Foundation

Other grantees will receive capacity-building funds and be encouraged to work on enhancing an aspect of their nonprofit, such as marketing, finance or board development, Fitzgerald said.

“These capacity-building dollars will be to hire consultants and experts to come in and teach the organization something that they don’t have,” he told Metro.

A $1 million contribution to the Philadelphia Foundation from Facebook kick-started the program. It was part of the social media company’s initiative to support Black communities in 20 regions of the country.

Marcy Scott Lynn, Facebook’s director of global impact partnerships, said in a statement that the company wants to “ensure that people locally are making the decisions about where these dollars are most needed and can have the most impact.”

Fitzgerald said the foundation has put up an additional $500,000 and raised $300,000, boosting the fund to $1.8 million. Another $1.7 million worth of requests from other donors is pending.

Originally, the target was $2 million, but it was incrementally bumped up as organizers saw how much interest there was in supporting Black-led nonprofits, Fitzgerald said.

To qualify for the grants, which are expected to range from $5,000 to $100,000, depending on an organization’s needs and budget, nonprofits must have a Black chief executive or board chair and serve a population that is at least 51% Black.

In addition, Black leadership should be seen throughout the organization, which must be based in Philadelphia or Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Burlington or Camden counties.

“These are social services and arts and culture organizations and organizations that are working in Black communities to help them be thriving and healthy and vibrant,” Fitzgerald said.

He said initial grants will go out soon to nonprofits that have long been “anchors” in the Black community. Those organizations will likely be announced early next month.

Another round of awards will be distributed in August or September to groups that apply by June 30. Organizations that submit applications by Sept. 30 will be considered by the end of the year.

For more information, go to www.philafound.org/blackcommunityleaders.org. Interested donors can contact BlackLeadersFund@philafound.org.

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