Over forty years ago, at the Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference, the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) was established, first as a working group and later as an independent membership organization. The founding members of ABFE—which eventually became the first member of the Council’s Affinity Group Network—recognized and acted on the urgency to promote diversity, inclusion and equity in philanthropy. In the four decades since, ABFE has been a visionary champion of the needs of foundation executives and Black communities.
The following represents ABFE’s current menu of programmatic offerings:
Racial Equity in Grantmaking
ABFE brings a new Framework on Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities to realize its mission of promoting effective and Responsive Philanthropy in Black communities. This new template builds upon grantmaking with a racial equity lens but is tailored specifically to grantmaking in and for Black communities. As a result, we have designed a set of defining characteristics of philanthropy that we believe is more likely to reduce gaps in racial disparities facing Blacks in the United States and are looking to partner with grantmakers around the country to apply this framework to their investments. To date, we have provided workshops in Chicago and Pittsburgh to grantmakers interested in this agenda.
ABFE Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program
The Connecting Leaders Fellowship is a year-long experience designed to sharpen the skills and strengthen the leadership capacity of foundation staﬀ, donors, and trustees who are committed to assisting Black communities through philanthropy. Fellows have the opportunity to learn from seasoned grantmakers and peers on a regular basis, understand how to be more eﬀective agents for change within their institutions, and participate in a network that focuses on innovative solutions to community challenges. Fellows receive a professional development stipend and are assigned a leadership coach. In addition, each fellow is required to complete a community-based learning project during the fellowship year. This can be volunteer work or a research project on a topic of interest.
Black Philanthropic Network
In 2009, ABFE used its Annual Conference to convene a group of nine Black philanthropic associations to discuss the best ways that the groups could work together to support each other and the common mission, goals and objectives. At this historic meeting, each group committed to participate in quarterly calls to exchange updates, offer peer support and contribute toward the evolution of a formally recognized Black Philanthropic Network. ABFE committed to serving as a participant in the Network, offering coordination to ensure that the Network strengthened and grew and providing leadership and resources to individual associations as they built their internal capacity.
By 2010, the BPN agreed it was ready to expand its focus beyond operations and capacity building to areas that would focus more directly on impacting Black Community, such as developing collaborative projects. Areas of focus now include strengthening the capacity of under-resourced, grassroots non-profits, which serve Black Communities, highlighting the programs, policies and grantmaking that improve the life outcomes for Black Males, and incorporating a race-gender lens to increase the strategic development and outcomes of grantmaking initiatives.
Investing in Black Male Initiatives
As a follow-up to previous work identifying funders that have invested in Black male initiatives, ABFE launched the next phase of its work in support of Black males during its 40th Anniversary Annual Conference in April 2011. At this hallmark meeting, we committed to coordinate a network of funders that are currently directing resources to initiatives to improve life outcomes for Black males. This work dovetails seamlessly with the evolving investments by many foundations to support “marginalized males” but recognizes that Black males fare worse than other men of color on many indicators of well-being and this warrants a forum in philanthropy uniquely designed to address this issue.
Through our existing work in the field, we will complete the following activities with committed funders of Black male initiatives:
Leverage the Trust
In November of 2011, ABFE launched “Leverage the Trust” to identify and engage 100 Black foundation trustees by 2015. The work of Leverage the Trust is led by a committee of dedicated trustees of philanthropic institutions that are representative of the diversity of geography, type, and size of grantmaking entities in the sector.
ABFE's Leverage the Trust initiative seeks to achieve two goals: 1) To increase the number and capacity of Black trustees at philanthropic organizations; and 2) To engage Black trustees in catalyzing, supporting and leading improved responses by representatives of the philanthropic community to issues of disparity in Black communities.
The Leverage the Trust committee has planned regional meetings to convene Black foundation trustees to learn about ABFE's history and work in the field of philanthropy and to share the experiences and perspectives of being foundation trustees. This trustee insight will inform how ABFE develops programming for Black foundation trustees, including the design of networking, professional development and personal enrichment opportunities.
At its 40th anniversary celebration in April of 2011, ABFE convened a Foundation and Emerging Manager Roundtable in Philadelphia, PA for a select group of minority investment managers as well as foundation executives interested in the topic. In September of 2011, ABFE convened a smaller group of the participants from the April convening to further refine the case for this work. Based on these two ground-breaking networking and relationship-building conversations, we have identified key barriers that prevent minority managers from working in the field of philanthropy. Additionally, we have outlined recommendations to the field and ABFE’s strategy to increase engagement of minority managers in search activity and selection in a report entitled, Smart Investing.
To address barriers and raise the visibility of this issue among foundations and other industry stakeholders, ABFE proposes to work toward the following goals and objectives over the next 3 to 5 years.
Goals and Objectives for Smart Investing
1) Build ABFE’s organizational capacity, field-wide networks, and industry knowledge and expertise to undertake long-term work in advocating for increases in minority manager engagement in foundation endowment management.
2) Increase the number of foundations that are intentionally focused on engaging minority owned firms to manage endowments.
3) Increase number of people of color with investment experience appointed to foundation boards.
4) Build knowledge and understanding of investment management principles and practices among ABFE’s leaders and the field; and demonstrate how this aspect of philanthropy directly affects grantmaking capacity to support Black communities.
5) Raise visibility of ABFE as a resource for financial services in the field of philanthropy and increase presence of ABFE in financial services industry.
Annual Awards for Philanthropic Excellence:
The James A. Joseph Lecture on Philanthropy is a tribute to Ambassador James A. Joseph, ABFE co-founder and distinguished leader in the field of philanthropy. The Lecture recognizes an outstanding individual whose leadership and contributions as a visionary philanthropic leader have helped advance progressive philanthropic ideals, strengthen grantmaking institutions and build vital Black communities.
The ABFE Emerging Leader in Philanthropy Award was established in 2002 to recognize and encourage the accomplishments and contributions of people under the age of 40, and who have served as staff, donors and trustees in the philanthropic sector for no more than 7 years. This award recognizes an outstanding individual whose innovative leadership promotes philanthropy as a means of social change in Black communities and advances ABFE’s mission. This Award is presented during the ABFE James Joseph A. Lecture in Philanthropy held each year at the Council on Foundations Annual Meeting. Emerging Leader in Philanthropy Awardees include Nicole Jones, Alvin Starks, Kanyere F. Eaton, Athan Lindsay, Phillip Thomas, Wendy Lewis Jackson, Rahsaan Harris, Cedric Brown, and Timothy McIntosh.
The ABFE Institutional Award for Philanthropic Leadership was established in 2002 to recognize significant efforts and contributions of grantmaking organizations to promoting philanthropy as a means for social change in Black communities. This award recognizes an exemplary grantmaking institution that models effective and responsive grantmaking practices. The ABFE Institutional Award for Philanthropic Leadership is presented during the ABFE James Joseph Lecture in Philanthropy held each year at the Council on Foundations Annual Meeting. Award winners include a diverse array of organizations such as Twenty-First Century Foundation, Akonadi Foundation and Southern Partners Fund.