Three Black leaders seek to break fundraising barriers for Black-led organizations with Baltimore Legacy Builders Collective

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Participants in B360, a program founded by Brittany Young, one of the founders of The Collective. Photo by Javon Roye.

Three Black-led Baltimore nonprofit organizations — B360, I am MENtality and The Be.org — launched last week the Baltimore Legacy Builders Collective to fundraise and share a joint development team to increase organizational capacity, sustainability, and better serve the Baltimore community.

The Collective, formed by Brittany Young, founder and CEO of B-360, Darren Rogers, founder and executive director of I am MEntality, and Tonee Lawson, founder and executive director of The Be.org, was created to address funding barriers that Black-led nonprofits face.

“Traditional fundraising is still made through racial biases,” Young explained. “We need better techniques, we need people to feel comfortable, to acknowledge the elephant in the room, which is that biases get in the way,” she said, “and to undo a lot of those biases, we need to have real conversations about how we can move the needle and create better pathways.”

A research report published in May by the Bridgespan Group, a global philanthropic consultancy, and Echoing Green, an early-stage funder of social innovation, shows how race plays a role in philanthropic funding. The report, which collected information from applicants to Echoing Green’s competitive fellowship program, found that, on average, Black-led organizations’ revenues are 24% smaller than those of white-led organizations. The disparity in unrestricted funding — funding that can be used by an organization for any purpose — is more drastic. The unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76% smaller than those of white-led organizations.

The racial funding gap is a component of what Young referred to as the “philanthropy industrial complex,” noting that traditional philanthropies are often led by executives who lack the lived experience to intimately understand the problems facing the communities they are trying to help. The disconnect highlights the importance of investing in Black-led organizations, Young explained.

The Collective was born out of a shared passion for youth development in Baltimore. In 2019, Young, Rogers and Lawson developed the idea for The Collective and later that year, secured a grant from the T. Rowe Price Foundation for the creation of a joint fundraising and strategic leadership position and to cover costs like stipends and programming space. The funding, over three years, paired with matching gifts has made The Collective possible.

Young, Rogers and Lawson are developing The Collective’s joint fundraising team and plan to announce the chief development officer in early 2021. Three volunteer junior advisors — Chelsea Brown, a graduate student at The University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy; Robbin Lee, the executive director of Baltimore Homecoming; and Matthew Reeds, the founder and executive director of The Reeds Fund -– have been engaged and are actively collaborating with each executive director, using their networks to help make connections with the Baltimore philanthropic community.

“What’s important about investing in Black leadership is that Black people in this city already have solutions that are working in our communities, we already know how to change things,” she said, “We don’t need more leaders, we need more funding to the leaders and to the programs because we need more money to go directly to Black communities.”

The Collective’s goal is to provide 100 hours of training, transferable skills and empowerment to 1,300 youth and young adults in the Baltimore metro area over the next year. The Collective’s initial objective, however, is to raise $30,000 through its Giving Tuesday campaign next week. (Donations can be made at https://www.baltimorelegacybuilders.org/.)

“When you give to Black-led organizations,” Young said, “you are also investing in your city.”

Once The Collective builds and grows, it plans to help other Black-led organizations replicate the shared fundraising and capacity building model. The Collective plans to provide both technical support to organizations and direct funding to one chosen organization by the end of 2021.



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