The traditional image of a philanthropist as a rich white male is changing. Minorities are giving a growing percentage of U.S. charitable contributions, according to one of several new national reports.
“Cultures of Caring,” a report funded by three foundations, found that many charitable organizations need to find better ways to connect with minority donors. Efforts could include hiring more minority staff members, adding more minority members to boards of trustees and focusing more on funding services to minority communities, the report said.
“Mainstream philanthropy has paid relatively little attention to communities of color,” added the report, funded by the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, as well as the Council on Foundations.
Many foundations, nonprofit groups and other charities are staffed largely by whites, and few have representatives from minority communities on their boards, the report indicated.
The report showed that in 1998, only seven blacks and two Hispanics headed community foundations. These foundations, which generally consist of numerous smaller funds, are public charitable organizations that fund services and programs in particular geographic areas.
At the community foundations studied in the report, only 24 percent of the board of trustee positions were filled by minorities, and only 32 percent of the staff positions at these foundations were filled by minorities.
But “donors in communities of color give large gifts primarily to organizations they know and trust,” the report added.
A second report, released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, underlined the need for charitable organizations to focus more attention and money on minority concerns if they want to beef up donations from minorities.
In 1997, only about 8 percent of all foundation grants went to minority concerns, the report added.
The White House report found that blacks are more likely to contribute to charity than whites, after accounting for differences in income, wealth and education.
But the White House report also found that blacks, as well as Hispanics, are asked for donations far less often than whites. When these groups are asked for donations, however, they are more likely to respond positively than whites.
“If solicitations serve to increase giving, then organizations are overlooking an important resource by not soliciting donations from African Americans and Hispanics at great rates,” the report said.
Minorities often choose different places to give their money than whites, the report added.
“They are less likely to contribute to endowment campaigns, and instead focus their giving on religious institutions and organizations, or on efforts that meet pressing needs.”
The White House report agreed that minority giving may be underestimated when it is counted in traditional ways. For example, many Hispanics send money to extended family members in other countries, with estimates of $3 billion annually going to Mexico alone this way.
But that money is difficult to account for, and is generally excluded from studies of American philanthropy.
Distributed by Scripps Howard.