Black philanthropy month: Philanthropy is not just for the wealthy

theGRIO REPORT - August is Black Philanthropy Month and in celebrating that, Christal Jackson held her third annual event Philanthropy on the Vineyard at the storied retreat, Martha’s Vineyard.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

August is Black Philanthropy Month, and in celebrating that, Christal Jackson held her third annual event, Philanthropy on the Vineyard, at the storied retreat, Martha’s Vineyard.

Jackson, who has almost two decades of experience with non-profits and philanthropy, produced a star-studded event that included the likes of dream hampton, Touré, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid.

But Jackson wants people to know that philanthropy can be done at every income level.

“Philanthropy is not reserved for the super wealthy. It’s a misconception that you have to have Bill Gates money to be a philanthropist. It’s based on the principal of love and sharing. If you give $25 to UNCF every year, then yes, you are a philanthropist,” said Jackson.

Attendees at this year’s Philanthropy on the Vineyard spent three days discussing a slew of different topics such as education reform, the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and global philanthropy. There was also a panel discussion called “The Influence of Faith and Philanthropy: Social Justice and the ‘New’ Black Church.” Pastor of Harlem’s First Corinthian Baptist Church and former congressional candidate Reverend Michael Waldron was one of the featured speakers for that session.

When asked how she would define the “new” black church, Jackson gave a nuanced response. “I hope that the new black church is socially relevant. It has to be concerned not just with spiritual well-being but the whole person. It has to address the needs of the community. The majority of our [black people’s] philanthropic dollars goes to the church. If the church is where our dollars go, then the church needs to produce results,” said Jackson.

The church is not the only institution that Jackson hopes to bring into a more comprehensive and organized method of philanthropy. With her foundation Head and Heart Philanthropy, Jackson focuses her energy on addressing the needs of communities of color by utilizing her vast network of non-profit and for-profit philanthropic entities.

“People have been functioning in silos doing great work. You have celebrities making scholarship funds and athletes creating foundations. That’s all wonderful, but as a community, we can’t have a real impact if we stay in these silos. We have to communicate, reach out and use all of our available resources. When I first started doing the Vineyard event, I just figured I would tap folks I knew and see how they would respond. I discovered that folks are just hungry to help our community,” said Jackson, who partnered with Wells Fargo for sponsorship of this year’s event.

Jackson has simple advice for those thinking about engaging in philanthropy but are having a hard time deciding which worthy cause to give to.

“Support what you care about. What’s important to you? Go back to what resonates with you or to the people and organizations that helped you in the past. You can always go to websites and make sure the organization is properly registered and has its financials in order. Do your own due diligence,” advised Jackson.

As far as what’s next for Philanthropy on the Vineyard, Jackson has her eye on being the catalyst for powerful partnerships.

“This year, we had our attendees organize within specific cohorts so that people with similar interests could connect and work together.  I travel around the country and hand select every participant. I want to go deeper. I want to find partners to help each other take it to the next level. I want to make certain that their values reflect the organization. We have to make sure that the focus on who we’re trying to help is not lost. That’s our next round,” noted Jackson.

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.