Interview: What Inspired Cultures of Giving?

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is concluding the Cultures of Giving Donor Challenge this week on Mightycause. The Cultures of Giving Donor Challenge is a 10-day online giving campaign to support nonprofits that address high-priority issues in communities of color across the country. Our goal is to get thousands of community donors to support the projects of over 20 well-respected nonprofits from April 17th-26th.

We interviewed Alandra L. Washington, deputy director for the Family Economic Security and Education and Learning teams at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, about Cultures of Giving. here’s what she had to say.

IG: What inspired Cultures of Giving?

AW: The Cultures of Giving Work was inspired by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s commitment to racial equity and understanding the need to increase equity, power, influence, and effectiveness across communities of color who are focused on growing philanthropy by and for their communities. Since 1996, the Foundation has been exploring ways to help support and grow philanthropy within communities of color across the United States.

In addition, we have taken inspiration from the members of these communities whose resiliency, knowledge, skill, and expertise is making a difference. One of our goals is to increase recognition and support for these communities from mainstream philanthropic institutions.

IG: Do you think Cultures of Giving has redefined community? How?

AW: The Cultures of Giving work is redefining community as well as who are givers in community. Our work helps to bring people together across communities of color where community is not necessarily defined by geography but by such things as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

Our work also amplifies voice and influence for segments of society who have been traditionally marginalized and supports their efforts to explore solutions to problems by pooling their time, money, and know-how to address issues that affect them. The Cultures of Giving work fosters principles of equity, justice, community engagement, and social change through the act of giving.

IG: Do you think ethnicity and religion are even more important to personal identity and giving or less so now?

AW: I have not actually tracked the trends or made a comparative analysis between the two, but what we do know that identity-based philanthropy is a growing movement across the country. It is a movement that seeks to democratize philanthropy from the grassroots up by activating and organizing powerful practices of giving in marginalized communities and leveraging these resources by and from a community on its own behalf.

Our scan of ethnic and identity-based funds revealed that many of these funds began to take off in the 1970s in the wake of the civil rights movement and in tandem with other social and empowerment movement. We have been able to document 355 identity-based funds across the country that are raising and re-granting over 400 million dollars in their communities.

IG: You see some interaction between different communities and how they help each other. Why does this happen, and how can we make more of it occur?

AW: This work is all about “connecting,” because it is through this connecting that these communities become powerful vehicles of self -determination and community change. This social change becomes possible when those who are most invested in promoting the change are able to organize, lead, and support the change they want to see. For funders, foundations, and donors who are interesting in helping to foster social change in community, we can make sure that more of this occurs by seeking opportunities to collaborate, leverage, and scale the resources, influence, knowledge, expertise, and activism that are taking place across communities of color.

IG: As a private foundation, why are you stepping out into the public and helping your NPOs learn to fundraise?

AW: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has long been active in helping build the capacity of nonprofit organizations across several areas including—executive leadership and board development, strategic planning, and organizational growth. We know that for many nonprofits led by and working in communities of color, access to and support for this type of capacity building can be extremely limited. The Cultures of Giving Donor Challenge is helping build the capacity of these organizations in order to take advantage of key trends of philanthropic giving that includes the increase of online giving and the significance of social media and networks in building donor loyalty.