How African American-led nonprofits compare to their white-led counterparts - Generocity Philly

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Apr. 29, 2016 9:09 am

How African American-led nonprofits compare to their white-led counterparts

A study organized by Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum examines the differences.

Sharmain Matlock-Turner of Urban Affairs Coalition, Jim Cawley of United Way, David Brown of PAALF and Kelly Woodland of PAALF.

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

More than ever, nonprofits are doing more with less — especially those led by African Americans.

Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) examined the differences between African American-led nonprofits and white-led nonprofits with research conducted over the past two years by Branch Associates, funded by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and supported by Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC).

The study was “designed to articulate the unique and critical value” of African American-led organizations, as well as the particular challenges they face, said Jim Cawley, president and CEO of United Way. Executive directors and African American community members were interviewed about their resources and staff demographics. 

“We wanted to capture a snapshot of the sector,” said Kelly Woodland, former managing director of PAALF and assistant vice president of Fairmount Ventures. “We also wanted to create opportunity for greater alignment among common issues. We want to begin a different type of conversation that begins with recognizing our assets and our value.”

According to the findings, compared to white-led organizations, African American-led organizations:

  • Are smaller in terms of staff and volunteers 
  • Have fewer cash reserves and depend more on government grants — Only 32 percent have four or more months of cash reserves, which means they’re spending a lot of energy just keeping the lights on. It’s a skill to be resourceful, but at the same time, these orgs don’t have “the luxury to be innovative,” Woodland said.
  • Are more likely to track data — Eighty-five percent do, possibly because government funding requires it, and these orgs receive more of that type of funding.  
  • Are more likely to have African American board members and senior staff — And white-led orgs are more likely to have white board members and senior staff.
  • Have less access to certain social networks, such those connected to grantmaking — Thus, they also lack access to certain types of funding.
  • Are more likely to serve the most challenged groups with the least amount of resources

David Brown, PAALF cochair, emphasized that the revealing of the study results is a “launch, not a release” because “there’s a lot of work yet to do.”

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“Once you do research, you need to figure out what you’re going to do with the research,” he said.

The next steps, explained UAC President and CEO Sharmain Matlock-Turner, include working with funders to support ascending African American leaders, and to ensure that African American-led nonprofits have access to technology needed for tracking its results. PAAFL will work with the Black Philanthropic Network to create a project to engage the community in on-the-ground fundraising as well as cultivate a talent database of prospective African American board candidates to be matched with nonprofits.

The research is available for download on PAALF’s website

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