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.