Philanthropy group conducts study on black giving in Boston

Martin Desmarais | 5/7/2014, 12:57 p.m.
New England Blacks in Philanthropy has a message — that the black community gives back at a much higher level ...
Bithiah Carter

That study found that black philanthropy in Los Angeles has three predominant types of donors: those who want their dollars to go to organizations that target black recipients, those who are more concerned with the issues they care about than the identity of the people affected by the issue, and those who believe in giving back as a part of their identity who give their money across the board.

The top destinations for giving by blacks in Los Angeles are churches, political campaigns, social service agencies, family and friends, and social justice advocacy organizations.

“Those are the kind of trends we are going to be looking for in Boston to see if they are the same, to see if they are different,” said Hancock. “One thing we have already identified that is different is that Boston is a little lower key.

“We are a little more ostentatious with our money in L.A. We are a little more showoff-ey,” she added. “In Boston, there is not a lot of emphasis on publicizing your donations, publicizing your philanthropic work and so, since it is true about black donors all across the country that there is not a lot of high visibility, I think that the cultural tendency then combines with the Boston tendency to be less ostentatious and you end up having a very difficult time hearing about some of these amazing things that people are doing.”

For Boston, then, the report should really serve to highlight some of these successes and stories of giving, Hancock stresses.

Carter hopes that the Boston study, as it did in Los Angeles, also highlights that blacks are not just giving to church, as many people assume, but are contributing to a wide range of philanthropic efforts all across the spectrum.

“It is important for everyone to see the diversity of philanthropy,” Carter said. “It dispels the myth that white people are always giving to black people — that they are always helping — it helps to dispel that myth. It also, for our children I think, is a place of pride to know that we actually contribute a lot more than the story that is getting out there.”

Carter hopes to establish strategies specific to Boston following the study. She said that it is very important to find “community-level indicators” that philanthropists should be paying attention to. She also said this task must be accomplished with a “lens on race” to have the most impact.