The Building Fund That Did…

Author: Kelli King-Jackson

I cannot believe it has been nearly six weeks since Necole and I traveled with family and friends to Washington, DC for the opening festivities of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).  We spent five days attending receptions, previews, and galas.  We had a ball.  We spoke to givers (aka philanthropists) large and small. Even our Uber drivers were excited about NMAAHC’s opening.

My husband and I signed on as monthly givers about a year ago when Necole (the artsy side of this partnership) shared an update on NMAAHC.  Honestly, up until that point, I had not paid much attention to the Museum.  I did not see a connection to my family’s philanthropic investments and the Museum.  As an avid ambassador for the arts, Necole began to explain why she had made an investment and why others needed to join the effort.  Everything she said made sense so I begrudgingly signed on.

You see, I am a multi-generational PK (aka Preacher’s Kid).  Much of my childhood was spent in church so I remember the infamous ‘building fund’ that had a permanent place in the announcements and on the offering envelopes.  If you were raised in the Black church you know what I’m talking about!  As I grew older I felt that building funds were sketchy – I mean how many buildings actually got built?

The night of the opening reception that we attended for the Museum I stood looking at the beautiful structure with awe and pride.  We did it!  We built a building.  Our building fund was complete.  I felt amazing that my family had made a small contribution to this gigantic effort.  For the first time in the history of Black people in America, we can actually say we are in control of our narrative.  We can tell the truth of our collective story in this nation because of our investment!

As I thought about all the possibilities that this building will hold for future generations I began to think about the ongoing investments the Museum will need.  The building, administrative staff, artistic collections and so much more will require ongoing development. In thinking of NMAAHC as a long-term investment, I thought back to my issue with building funds.  I interpreted the funds to be about building a building but I now realize it was about maintaining the building.  Our investments cannot only be at the beginning of a building, organization or program.  We must commit to making long-term investments in the deep development of things we care about.  Building Funds are about maintenance, infrastructure, and legacy.

The next time you get excited about a philanthropic investment, consider asking the following questions:

  1. What are the long-term needs you anticipate for this facility/program/organization?
  2. Will monetary donations be placed in income-generating accounts?
  3. How much of the monetary donations are spent immediately vs placed in an endowment?
  4. Beyond money, what other long-term investments will be needed?
  5. Do you have legacy giving options?

As my family considers our 2017 contribution to the NMAAHC these are the sort of questions we will ask ourselves.  We want to make sure NMAAHC is around for our grandchildren and their children to enjoy.

If Blackwood Advisors can help you with your giving plans for 2017 or help you explore these questions with your favorite charity, please let us know.

Juneteenth – Arriving at the Freedom Party After the Lights Are Up

Authors: Kelli King-Jackson and Necole S. Irvin

We started our week with a live Facebook conversation on Juneteenth and the legacy of giving. We wanted to talk about legacy giving after the death of Prince but felt even more compelled to discuss this important topic after Muhammad Ali passed away. We define legacy giving as planned giving that is distributed after death. Watch our Facebook Live video to learn more.

While we both live in the Houston, we took different paths to get here. Necole was born and raised in the South and lived abroad and on the East coast before her return. Kelli was raised on the West coast and lived on the East coast before migrating South. Both of our mothers share a name, Emelda, and were born in small towns outside of New Orleans. These commonalities have greatly influenced our partnership and the ways we thinking about our giving. We both want to honor our mother’s while also investing in the development of Black giving in the Southern United States.

Growing up, Necole’s community didn’t celebrate Juneteenth; neither did Kelli’s. When we learned about Juneteenth we were headed toward adulthood and were confused as to why Black people would celebrate learning about our legal status two and a half years late. As we have grown in our knowledge of Black history and the perspective of Black Americans, we now understand that the timing of the knowledge of freedom was not the most important element in the Juneteenth story. The reality of freedom and what it meant to Black people is the actual focal point we should all look to. Freedom was not just about where to go, live or work. Freedom is humanity. Freedom is ever evolving and freedom also includes opportunities for learning and building wealth.

Given all the civil unrest of the last few years, our opportunities for learning and building wealth are being questioned and challenged. Stanford. Ferguson. Baltimore. Charleston. Orlando. Voting Rights. Congress. The Supreme Court. Trump. These signify a receding of life, liberty and the civil rights held dear, even for a short time, by Blacks in America.

The opportunities and importance of freedom are the basis of why Juneteenth has survived over 150 years and stands as the most visible holiday by and for Blacks in America. This year, more than any other in our lifetime, the importance of Juneteenth is clear.

Our freedom is at stake.

This year, one of the most tangible giving legacies of Juneteenth in the South is the revitalization of the historic Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. Prominent community leaders, politician Richard Allen, Reverend Jack Yates of Antioch Baptist Church and Reverend Elias Dibble of Trinity Methodist Episcopal, all former slaves, pooled funds from the community to purchase 10 acres in 1870 as a dedicated site for annual Juneteenth celebrations. It is one of the earliest documented land purchases in the name of Juneteenth.

Upon moving to Houston, we were both introduced to Emancipation Park as a cornerstone for the Black community. The unassuming community center was noted as a building that had remained standing since 1939 and served multiple functions for the neighborhood. Before 2016 ends, Houston will celebrate a major $33.6 million overhaul to the park.

This long-standing public space in Houston shares an architect with a new national asset for the Black community – the soon-to-open Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The NMAACH is a brand new, $500 million structure that was built due to philanthropic investments that span the globe. The Gerald B. and Anita Smith Family and Lauren Anderson, America’s first Black principal for a major dance company, are Houstonians among the list of significant donors to the museum. We will be traveling to Washington, DC in September to pay homage to the legacy of our ancestors and our personal philanthropic investments to the development of this structure.

Emancipation Park and NMAAHC are sustaining legacies of freed people – past and present – that represent the cornerstones of the Black community. This legacy includes individuals identifying a challenge – a dedicated place to honor Black history – that cannot be blocked or rescinded. Black leadership, in choosing the land and raising the funds for these facilities, while understated, must be acknowledged. Courage to purchase the land and dedicate it to ensure our Black history lasts beyond any of our lifetimes should be commended.

Foresight and planning are the words that come to mind with the impactful example of pooled giving. We see this legacy in churches that donate land to communities for affordable housing and with families and individuals in the form of giving circles and other types of pooled giving. While Emancipation Park is a well-known story of collective philanthropy there are many other examples across the South within the Black community. In Necole’s first giving video I talk about how her maternal ancestors purchased land and dedicated parcels for a school and a church. Six generations later both are still standing strong.

What is the giving legacy in your community? How will it stand the test of time? Today as we celebrate our history and progress in the freedom journey let’s challenge each other to leave a legacy with our giving for the next generation. Loudly share that legacy for the entire world to know!

Leaving a Legacy

Author: Kelli King-Jackson

The day Prince died a little bit of all of us left this earth. Musically, Prince was a staple in my romantic life since adolescence. As a child of the 90’s I knew the re-imagined star. The one who fought to get free legally and financially from record labels. Prince was an example of how millennials could show up in the workplace, especially artists. My artistic friends read books about contracts and copyright as they sought to protect their gifts from the corporate machine.

As an adult, philanthropy – the notion of giving time, talent and treasure to causes that one is passionate about – is at the heart of who I am. My family gives to several charities monthly, for many years we were faithful church tithers and when possible and appropriate, we contribute to family/friends in need. We also mentor and give back by volunteering with local nonprofits. As such, I was emotionally moved when I learned about Prince’s philanthropic work after his death. Prince contributed financially to countless nonprofits, arts events and more. He often gave anonymously or on the condition of anonymity. Prince gave innovatively to places like Harlem Children’s Zone by extending lines of credit so he could maintain an ongoing involvement vs. contributing a one-time gift. I need y’all to know how flabbergasted I was that there is no will being presented from one of the many lawyers who represented and/or befriended him. Would a man so methodical and controlling about his art not have a plan for his assets after death? Possibly.

Without judgement, this idea of legacy is one I want more Black philanthropists to consider today. At Blackwood Advisors (parent organization to UjimaSouth) we encourage every client to have a Legacy Plan, a road map on how assets should be philanthropically disbursed when they die. Here are three tips to help you develop your Legacy Plan:

1. Create a will. There are countless reasons to have a will, especially in large families or families with minimal experience handling wealth. Your will should include a plan for how you want any assets to be distributed. The ways assets of public figures and individuals with significant wealth are disbursed after death can impact one’s image and impact – for good or bad – for generations.  Seriously consider discussing your will with your heirs. At a minimum, make sure a copy of your will is easily accessible upon your death.

2. If you have favorite charities consider leaving some, if not all, of your assets to them. Once you decide where and what to give, contact the organization. Remember you can leave organizations cash, stocks and more. A significant one-time gift can be a way to help your favorite charity establish an endowment or purchase/pay off debt on property. No matter what you give just make sure your intended beneficiary has the capacity to administer any significant gift you leave behind.

3. You can be an anonymous giver. Trusts or donor advised funds are one way to give anonymously. If you have assets that you want to leave to benefit causes/organizations you care about you can set up funds that allow your money to generate interest and be distributed anonymously according to your interests. Again, having a plan ensures that no matter who oversees your assets your wishes will be honored — if you you do not want the benefactors to know you/your estate were the source of the donation(s).  In these instances, monies and assets can be distributed quickly or over a period of time.

Note: Blackwood Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This information is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to provide or be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult your own tax, legal or accounting advisors before making any decisions.

If you need of philanthropic advising services please contact us at