While the United States continues to count on its long struggle against racial injustice, it is important to remember that racism is not just a local problem, we are also exporting it.
As we begin 2021, global philanthropy has an opportunity to address this.
In the US, Black-led organizations are on average 24% smaller in terms of revenue, with 76% less funding without restrictions – the gold standard for granting grants. If you are a woman of color who runs a nonprofit organization, your chances of receiving funding are even lower. with a miniscule 0.6% of the financing of the foundation destined to this group.
Worldwide, more than 99% of humanitarian and philanthropic funding goes primarily to white-led international NGOs. Despite Africa’s growing and dynamic social sector, only 5.2% of US foundation grants to Africa go to African-led organizations.
Global donations to Africa require your own Black Lives Matter calculation.
There is power in the vicinity. Changing our donations to prioritize African leaders is not only fairer, it is more effective. When the global pandemic struck, guess which NGOs withdrew and fled the continent? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the locally led organizations. As in the never-ending crises before, African-led organizations have seized the opportunity and responded to communities when others cannot. This is not new. Grassroots organizations are consistently making impact on the frontline, without the benefit of frontline funding.
Through a portfolio of 200 African partners in Segal Family Foundation, we have repeatedly seen local leaders innovate and iterate, pool resources and network to respond and rebuild.
There are countless reasons why African-led organizations in Africa are not getting the attention or funding they deserve. There are multiple overlapping barriers that allow this inequity to persist: lack of proximity to funder networks, definitions of philanthropy risk that do not value lived experience, lack of formally recognized status, and well-documented implicit bias.
But we can overcome that. We can fund groups that live, breathe, work and speak even the most nuanced language of their communities. Right now, when we see donors beginning to apply new equity-based approaches to funding black-led organizations and movements in the US, we must apply those approaches to funding across Africa as well.
the African Visionary Fund is a new pooled fund, created by a group of American foundations, designed to generate millions of dollars in unrestricted funding for African-led organizations. We do due diligence, advocate for our partners, and provide grants directly to African leaders to accelerate their impact.
Unlike many other philanthropic collaborations, the foundations also gave up power over how the fund will work and where the grants will go. The founding working group of the African Visionary Fund is both predominantly African and majority non-donor. This means that the way the fund makes grants and supports beneficiaries is based on the experiences of those it seeks to support. The fund will allocate more than $ 1 million (£ 740,000) in grants this month and is on track to raise $ 10 million by 2023 to help African visionaries accelerate their impact. While philanthropy often progresses slowly, the African Visionary Fund hopes to be a bridge for resources to reach the people who can make an impact now.
We have a unique opportunity, at this time, to chart a more equitable future globally. There are a few key questions that would help donors make things fairer and better, from simply looking to see how many investments go to white-led organizations or social enterprises to tracking, measuring and questioning them. Asking about diversity and questioning your own risk assessment: is local knowledge and lived experience being measured?
Work against racism is a long game: philanthropy is not going to change overnight. But this is the time to start. We need to stop the perennial habit of analysis paralysis and find ways to move money now.
We are in a time of unprecedented upheaval and change in the world. If philanthropy is willing to acknowledge flaws, practice radical imagination, and act fast, we are poised to unlock transformative change. Innovative, tenacious and optimistic African leaders are fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of their communities every day. Let’s face it with the recognition and investment that they deserve.
• Dedo Baranshamaje is director of innovation at the Segal Family Foundation. Katie Bunten-Wamaru is Executive Director of the African Visionary Fund
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism