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Black Investment Fund seeks to uplift small Black businesses in Greensboro


McCain and Mae Douglass. Photo by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker.

Black led. Black funded. That is the motto of the Black Investments in Greensboro (BIG) Equity Fund.

An endowment under the umbrella of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro (CFGG), the goal is to solidify a $3 million endowment that will accelerate the economic progress for Greensboro’s Black Community while also addressing issues of social justice and inequity.

“Across the country, I’ve seen a lot of starting and stopping of Black philanthropy. One of the common themes of why they stopped were leadership changes or board members change or purposes change. But the issues in our local communities don’t. We wanted to lead with an endowment that was permanent and never going away. This collective living model of us all coming together creating something permanent that lasts beyond our lifetimes. That is what is going to allow us to address the disparities that we know we need to address in our communities,” said Walker Sanders, president of the CFGG.

Adrienne Brooks
In celebration of Black Philanthropy Month, observed every August in the U,S,, the CFGG and BIG welcomed Adrienne C. Brooks, Director of Advancement Emerita at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, to speak to the community about Black philanthropy and how to make it work on a local level.

Mae Douglas, chair of BIG noted, “We want to highlight the importance of Black giving in our community. African American philanthropy is higher than many other communities in the country, although we don’t have the same level of wealth as other communities.”

According to a 2018 report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Black households give 25 percent more of their income annually than White households, and nearly two-thirds of African American households donate to organizations and causes, totaling $11 billion each year.

Brooks addressed the audience about different options of soliciting donations, not just from high-net-worth individuals, but also residents who can only afford to donate small amounts.

“The tradition of giving is not new to us,” said Brooks. “Giving or philanthropy looks different in the Black community. Traditionally, philanthropy started with us volunteering with our churches, schools and providing for the community.”

BIG currently has $1.4 million in the endowment with a goal of $3 million. The first $300,000 came from Black donors.

“If capitol dollars are hard, then endowment dollars are even harder. Programs are important, but if you’re looking to make a change and long-term investment, that is where an endowment plays a role,” said Brooks. “Understand how empowering it is to be a donor. That gives you a stake and a voice in that organization.”

Douglas says that they are also working with bringing in younger Black donors as well.

“We are focused on systemic issues. We were very clear that we want money for small Black businesses and entrepreneurs who weren’t able to secure funds for construction projects,” she said.

The three priorities of the endowment include healthcare, small business development and education.

“One of the things I learned, if you don’t address the system and teach people to fish, then you will be constantly feeding them. So, the Big Equity Fund was explicitly set up to address disparity and systemic problems,” said Douglas. “This is what makes us unique locally and nationally, because no one else is approaching it this way.”

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