Black people are far more inclined to give back to the community compared with their white counterparts, according to new research by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF).
The report, “Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Colors,” shows a growing trend for communities of color to give at increasing rates and levels.
African-Americans, for instance, give away 25 percent more of their income per year than whites and 63 percent of Latino households now make charitable donations. People of color are also growing in size and their assets are increasing as well.
“Say the word ‘philanthropist,’ and most people envision wealthy white do-gooders writing large checks in millions” says WKKF CEO and President Sterling Speirn.
“In recent years, the definition of philanthropy has begun to broaden to include a larger swath of human generosity, with any-size contributions not just from the wealthy but from people of every income bracket,” he says.
Alandra Washington, deputy director at WKKF, who lead this initiative, however, is keen to highlight the rigorous methodology. “It took more than five years to complete the research. Data collection included surveys, in-depth interviews, sight-visits and analyses of data and reports.”
The WKKF data also shows significant growth in “identity-based-philanthropy”, where the incentive is to give is based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
The study, though, acknowledges African-Americans have a long history of philanthropic giving, with its first funds established in the 1920s. “Across communities, growth rates have varied but African-American funds have had the most consistent growth over time, increasing modestly each decade since the 1970s,” says the report.
“People in these communities feel a responsibility to give because they know their people are at risk” says New York psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere. “For those with more disposable income it becomes a duty to give back, a moral obligation, to support those in need.”
It is not surprising black Americans are such generous givers. This commitment to give something back to society, especially to people of color, is best looked at in the context of a history of racism and oppression.
In the early days of slavery the black church, with its emphasis on giving, played a central role in aiding the community. As the fight for equality intensified, African-Americans made significant contributions to the civil rights movement, ranging from financial aid to helping organize NAACP events.
From this struggle for equality black people developed a loosely defined kinship, strong networks of mutual aid and sensitively towards the less fortunate.
Today, the black church still has a powerful voice. For many their “Christian status” significantly influences the way they play out their lives and with this the pledge to give tithes [10 percent of income], gifts and offerings.
“Latinos and especially blacks who are in the church have already established a built in habit of giving because of the root of tithing,” says Dr. Gardere. “Because of this mindset it’s easier to give outside the house of worship and contribute to wider society.”
In addition to their roles as church-goers, African-Americans make enormous contributions through informal philanthropy and other connections with organizations and associations.
Alumni chapters of black fraternities and sororities are known for being larger and more active than their white counterparts. The majority take part in worthwhile causes, mentoring schemes and community outreach initiatives. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, for example, has donated over $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Despite criticism of the lavish lifestyle of black celebs, many including the likes of Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and NBA star Chris Paul, give substantial amounts of their time, talents and treasures to charitable causes.
The latest BlackGivesBack survey of the top ten celebrity philanthropists of 2011, for instance, highlights some impressive giving. It was Denzel Washington, nevertheless, who topped the list with his $2.25 million donation to Fordham University, his alma mater, for an endowed chair in the theater department.
Lest we forget, many, although of course not all, black celebrities were born into poverty, some in the segregated south. Oprah Winfrey, one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, for example, was born in abject poverty in rural Mississippi.
“Most were not born with a silver spoon,” says Dr. Gadere. “They feel they got to where they are on the blood, sweat and tears of their forefathers.”
“African Americans tend to give most to causes that have the most impact on their lives, with education, youth projects, health-related causes, and civic engagement at the top of the list,” says Tracey Webb, founder of BlackGivesBack.com, an online blog that chronicles black philanthropy, and this year in association with the Admiral Center, published the yearly black celebrity philanthropist list.