(December 18, 2020) In the face of multiple reports on the tiny percentage of philanthropic funding that is directed towards racialized communities, a group of Black professionals from multiple sectors including business, health and education are vowing to change that by creating the Black Opportunity Fund (BOF).
“Discussions started in November 2019 with community groups and eventually including the government about investment in the Black community,” says Colin Lynch, Head of Global Real Estate Investments, TD Asset Management, and a steering committee member of the Black Opportunity Fund.
“It was Ray Williams who really instigated these conversations,” he says, “then in the spring and summer of this year, organizations were talking about the need for funding to address anti-Black racism, which is on top of the impact of COVID being felt by Black charities, non-profits and businesses.” Ray Williams is Managing Director and Vice Chairman, Financial Markets at National Bank Financial.
“The need for significant investment in Black communities and Black businesses in Canada is great. Of the $381 billion invested in COVID relief only about $100 million of that has been targeted to the Black community, about .026%.”
On June 25th BOF went public with their plan. “Although we had been having many conversations prior to this time, after announcing publicly, we undertook a listening tour, talking to Black organizations and businesses with intention,” says Lynch.
BOF has just issued a report on those consultations saying they “reached well over a thousand diverse Black voices. By the end of 2020, our volunteers will have enabled the BOF to create the foundation of a transformational ecosystem. The BOF has engaged Canada’s leading businesses, banks, and foundations, and secured financial and in-kind support from a broad range of partners.”
The new organization says it’s designed to be the world’s largest fund for the Black community, serving existing Canadian organizations.
“In order to help across the board, to help Black arts organizations, improve Black educational outcomes and assist Black business over the long term with multi-year grants, the Black Opportunity Fund is making plans to raise $1.5 billion,” says Lynch.
The Fund will be set up in a way that allows it to support Black-owned businesses and nonprofits. It will be divided into three pools of support—philanthropic support to Black charities and nonprofits, a pool for Black business support, and a pool of investments funds.
“There are Black business across the country that have been in business for 30, 40, even 50 years—hair salons, barbershops, restaurants and others—that are getting evicted from their premises now because they never owned the real estate in which their business operated. These people need help,” Lynch added.
About half the goal—$800 million—is notionally designated to come from government.
“In our conversations with senior, assistant deputy minister level bureaucrats, we’ve been told there has not been a lot of interaction with Black philanthropic efforts,” says Lynch. “And I feel positive about the reception we’ve received on multiple levels. But it’s one thing to make declarative statements and something else to do something. We need to see action.”
At the same time—and despite the quality of the team—the pattern of philanthropy in Canada and the US has not been a welcome one for Black, Indigenous and people of colour.
“Racial bias—both personal and institutional, conscious and unconscious—creeps into all parts of the philanthropic and grantmaking process,” according to a Stanford Social Innovation Review article in May 2020. “The result is that nonprofit organizations led by people of color receive less money than those led by whites, and philanthropy ends up reinforcing the very social ills it says it is trying to overcome.”
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) in the US did a study this summer that found, “only 1% of grantmaking from the 25 foundations that we looked at was specifically designated to benefit Black communities, even though a combined 15% of these 25 cities’ [where the foundations operated] populations are Black. Put another way, these 25 foundations together distributed $78 in funding per person in their communities, but only $6 per Black person in their communities.”
The Charity Report’s own study published this month showed that the Top 20 Foundations in Canada gave .1% of the $1.62 billion of grants they made between 2014 and 2018 to racialized communities.
And a report from the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities and Carleton University's Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Program called Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked by Canadian Philanthropy, revealed “a review of 40 leading Canadian foundations, whose assets total nearly $16 billion, revealed only 6 of these foundations funded Black-serving organizations and two foundations funded Black-led organizations between 2017 and 2018.”
Lynch understands BOF is treading new ground, will need to break a few barriers and, most likely, develop a new brand of philanthropy, one focused on modern-day justice issues.
“We are partnering with the Black Fundraisers’ Collective, a group of 50 experienced Black fundraisers to develop the fundraising plan and effort,” say Lynch. “The need for this is urgent. Folks need help now.”
To make a contribution to the Black Opportunity Fund, click here.