Our History


ABFE is one of the leading philanthropy-serving organizations focused on racial equity in the U.S.


ABFE is an example of what it means to create your own table.

Our story begins in 1971 when a small group of Black foundation executives was unwilling to accept a lack of Black representation in the Council of Foundation’s governing body. They spoke up, challenged the nomination process, and made a powerful decision: to create their own space where Black people in the sector would be centered and celebrated. 

ABFE History

ABFE is the soul of philanthropy, and for more than 50 years, it's been home to Black people and colleagues who believe in racial equity.

ABFE is the place where people go to find community, to find family, and to find meaningful impact. Throughout our history, we've always been committed to:

Making sure that the philanthropic sector is equitable in its distribution of resources.
Creating conditions where Black people can create their own philanthropy and assets to benefit Black communities.


Our History of Making History

See the most significant moments of ABFE's 50-year legacy fostering equality, diversity, and inclusion in the philanthropic sector.

ABFE'S Founding


Black professionals in philanthropy organized and met to discuss Black representation in the sector. As a result, eight Black foundation executives attended the spring Council on Foundations meeting in Montreal, Canada and challenged the nomination process due to lack of Black representation in the governing body. The need for a space dedicated to Black people in the sector was clear. Shortly after ABFE (formerly the Association of Black Foundation Executives) was created as an all-volunteer organization.

America Post the Civil Rights Movement


The 1970s emerged as an era of intense political conflict, dramatic economic transformation, and pivotal developments in American race relations. As a result, ABFE worked to improve the status of Black communities in the United States that were impacted by increasing employment, "ghettoization" and a shift in the American outlook toward civil rights.

Our national office was established in New York and we appointed an Executive Director. ABFE surveyed grants reported to the Foundation Center to develop a profile of foundation contributions to minority communities.
ABFE attended the National Association of Attorney Generals Conference focusing on the regulation of the charitable sector. There, we made several specific recommendations on the subject of equal opportunity and philanthropy.

An Age of Conservatism


In the 80s, ABFE confronted the challenges of a new era. Many Americans believed Blacks did not do enough to help themselves; a view reflective of conservatism. Moreover, the Commission on Minority Participation in Education and American Life declared the U.S. was "Moving Backward", in securing equal rights for minorities. ABFE moved forward despite these developments and continued supporting Black professionals and communities.


Membership Milestone


ABFE reached 101 members, representing 60 foundations across the nation.

Persistent Challenges Impacting Black Communities


Demographics of the Black middle class shifted considerably in the 90s, and during the Clinton presidency, Black wealth increased. However, a significant earning gap still existed between Blacks and whites. The persistence of poverty in Black communities remained a constant conundrum for public policymakers nationwide, and incidents of racial violence ravaged the country. ABFE programming focused on race relations, public policy, and racism and violence impacting Black communities. 


A Black person holding a sign over their head saying TOGETHER WE STAND
We launched a new strategic planning initiative and established our Professional Development Institute.
The Connecting Leaders Fellowship program launched with 10 Fellows at a Leadership Summit at the Ford Foundation. Also, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation presents ABFE with the Leadership in Action Award.

Susan Taylor Batten takes the helm


Susan Taylor Batten becomes president and CEO. ABFE convened its fifth class of the Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program at a leadership summit in Newark, New Jersey, and organized the Black Philanthropic Network of regional Black in philanthropy groups. 

ABFE and members of the Black Philanthropic Network collaborated on strategies to increase Black participation in the 2010 Census. We also unveiled our Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities framework, associated field trainings, and webinar series.
We celebrated our 40th anniversary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with more than 300 members, including founding members, in attendance.

ABFE's 50th anniversary


In honor of ABFEs 50th anniversary, we launched a capital campaign with a goal of $25 million over five years. Through this campaign, we raised funds to organize collective investments in Black communities, expanded our philanthropic advising services, diversified membership, and improved our internal capacity.

“ABFE’s work is about organizing resources that exist in philanthropy and applying them to challenges that face Black communities in this country. No longer can we say we don’t know what the challenges are, we don’t know what organizations to give to. ABFE has filled that gap.” 
-Cory Anderson, ABFE Board Member 
ABFE hosted its first-ever corporate community hack-a-thon for Black professionals in corporate philanthropy. We also launched the Smart Investment Network, a network that focuses on supporting Black-led investment firms and promoting equitable investment practices.

Black Women in Philanthropy’s 10th Anniversary


Ten years ago, six women united with a bold vision—to establish a supportive and empowering platform for Black women in philanthropy.

Further developed our CHAMA initiative to build and strengthen funder collaboratives, expanding the
flow of philanthropic dollars to Black-led organizations, while reducing silos, leveraging regional grantmaking dollars, and sustaining investments in high-impact nonprofits.
Development of the Racial Equity Advancement and Defense Initiative (READI) in partnership with racial equity partners. This initiative includes the development of a resource bank, aimed to equip the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors with essential tools for navigating legal frameworks while passionately advocating for racial justice.

Opportunities to join the ABFE community

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