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.

Getting My Nephews Hooked!

Getting My Nephews Hooked: How do I engage my family in philanthropy?

I love my nephews.  These two amazing boys are part of the reason I took a job here in Houston.  During my first year living in here one of my nephews asked about my new job.  As I began describing my work in organized philanthropy I saw both boys’ eyes glaze over.  This caused the birth of an idea that would have made my teacher mom quite happy.

Many of my earliest memories of the holidays included the one big item I’d hoped for and several practical things like fruit from our church (always a bag with two oranges, an apple and peppermint), clothes and socks. These were not items at the top of my list when considering what to give my nephews. Every year it gets harder and harder to find the right gift for two now teenage boys who are blessed to have both things they need and want. As I begin preparing for the holiday season I started thinking about what I’d give my nephews. Books, gaming programs, sports memorabilia were on the list but nothing really excited me. I also tried to recall what I’d given them the last two holiday seasons and much to my disgust I couldn’t. I then remembered the glazed eyes and realized that I had not been more intentional in being a model for giving. I decided to create an “I am philanthropist” experience for them.

I decided to provide them with the opportunity to be intentional philanthropists. This experience was done with a $150, a timeline and a guide book.

  • I determined the amount of cash because I wanted it to be significant and provide options for a single or multiple gifts.
  • I placed a time limit on their decisions because that is what happens in real life and I also didn’t want this experience to get lost in the midst of their busy lives.
  • Finally I prepared a bonded and personalized handbook. The creation of the guidebook including defining philanthropy, setting out the parameters of the experience and providing information on several non-profits. I chose organizations that were connected to children, had tangible results, geographically close or were issues impacting our family. I curated ten groups and provided a short description of who they were, who they helped and why/how.

When the boys opened their gifts, confusion and not joy was on their faces. After I cleared up the confusion they wanted clarification that all of the money had to be given away (and not to each other). I spent lots of time curating the list and in the end they were influenced by other factors – including the heavy rotation of a powerful commercial on animal shelters.

When their thank you letters arrived they were surprised too receive them and it sparked an additional conversation on how the money was being used, if they’d like to make this an annual tradition and if they were happy with their choices. My nephews are also now on the donor list of these organizations. This means they receive newsletters and new requests to continue supporting the organizations. What was their learning? It made them more aware of the role individual contributions play in organizations that help communities thrive.

Would I do it again? Yes. My hope is that the guidebook becomes unnecessary and my financial gift includes their own contribution. My recommendation would be that habits require practice. Engaging my nephews in philanthropy is not a one-time event. Please check out our guidebook. The creation of it was fun and inexpensively bond at an office supply store. If you’ve done something similar or decide to give it a try we’d loved to hear about your experience and how it was received.

Giving Thanks

Thank y’all for an amazing month.  When we officially launched UjimaSouth we could not imagine the amount of support we would receive.In just one month we have established a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Plus, we have hosted our first event and are preparing for a panel presentation.  We are so grateful.  Thank you!

Let’s get ready to take 2016 by storm…together.

Our online followers have likely seen us using our hashtag, #igiveblack.  Starting today you can order merch via our website.  What an awesome way to kick off #BlackFriday AND support a black business, right?!? Take a look and place an order today!

Learn with US

On December 2nd, UjimaSouth will launch a series of webinars. This first webinar sets the stage for giving in 2016.   The theme for the four webinars in 2016 is ‘collective giving.’  Collective giving allows like-minded people to pool their resources, research community needs and decide as a group where to invest.  Being part of a group can enrich the giving experience for all. Collective giving is a participatory process that is proactive and can be formalized in a variety of ways including family scholarships, giving circles and volunteer relays. Giving together amplifies the power of philanthropy. Join us by registering for one or all of our online learning opportunities.

Behind the Video – Family Giving

Author: Necole S. Irvin

Last week I posted my first video on-line as an UjimaSouth steward.  UjimaSouth, a project of Blackwood Advisors, offers a variety of community-based philanthropic educational services.  As a steward I strive to provide education and awareness to the history and current story of Black philanthropy.  Philanthropy can be defined in many ways including “love for humanity.” One of the most common definitions include the voluntary giving of one’s resources including skills, time and money.

I choose to focus my first video on family giving.   Black philanthropy has deep roots in family and a sense of community.  My video is an example of my families’ legacy of giving in the form of land and institutions.  Prior to recording I was concerned about several issues.  I wanted to pick a compelling example.  I had to figure out where I would record the video.  And I needed to figure out what to do with my hair and the proper shooting angle.

Deciding on the example was the easiest decision.  I am blessed to have numerous documented and frequently heard examples of family giving.  I decided to go with one that has always struck me as having long-term impact and was an example of giving for personal and community advancement that would impact generations.  It is also an example of collective giving (my great grandmother, her brother and their spouses) which implies a strong level of family cohesion.  As an aside – collective giving is most commonly referred to these days as a giving circle.  A giving circle is a group that pools their resources to increase their awareness of and engagement to achieve defined and specific goals.

Emily Johnson Anderson was born in 1862.  Her portrait hung above my grandparents mantle.  Even before learning that she was known as a stern disciplinarian to her eight daughters her image demanded respect.

Two other concerns that were relatively easy to resolve – shooting location and angle.  Both were determined by trial and error.  For my second video I plan on spending a little more time on this decision. (Boy! does my face look huge.)  Maybe not so shocking, the concern that took the most time was my hair.  This is not a new dilemma nor is it one that isn’t shared by most black women.  My solution – cover it.  Was that a cop-out?  Yes.

After resolving these four concerns at various levels of competency I realized that my two minute video was too long for twitter and I didn’t have the technical skills to compress it.  Lesson from my first video post – there is always something new to learn but sharing my families’ giving reminded me of personal legacy and inspires me to being a better philanthropist.  I hope that Emily’s story will inspire someone to think about and share their family legacy.