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Join our panel of experts for a discussion on grantmaking, and how programmatic and impact investment strategies can be used to create pathways for inclusion and economic mobility.
Equity and Economic Mobility: The Role of Philanthropy
Recorded on March 18, 2021
Good afternoon. My name is Ann Limberg and I serve as the Head of Philanthropic and Family
Office Solutions for Bank of America. And on behalf of our entire team, welcome to today’s call. I’m delighted that you could join us.
At Bank of America, we’re really honored to work with our foundation and endowment investment clients, to help advance their mission. And our holistic approach includes sharing insights and best practices from our own team, but also from other industry leaders. And that’s exactly what we’re here to do today.
Today we’re here to explore one of the most important and challenging topics facing philanthropy and our society today. And that’s equity and economic mobility. Giving to achieve both racial and gender equity goals is a key focus for our clients, particularly in this past year. And our enterprise too is locking arms with our clients, including through the recently announced one billion dollar commitment.
And while the recent surge in giving to advance these goals provides great encouragement, I think we’d all agree that there’s still a lot more to do. And the reality is that, in general, organizations focused on achieving racial and gender equity goals are relatively underfunded. And so donors who prioritize investments, both philanthropic and market based, are well positioned to have significant and differentiated impact.
I’d like to dive right in and begin by welcoming our terrific panelists today. First, Bob Hughes, the Director of K-12 Education Grant Making Program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ebony Thomas, our Program Executive at Bank of America Corporation for Racial Equality and Economic Opportunity Initiatives. Jeannie Sager, Director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. And Dianne Bailey, our National Philanthropic Strategy Executive overseeing our consulting and advisory team.
So Bob, let’s begin the conversation with you. I know that many of our guests join today to benefit from your experience and your vision, both in the education and the not-for-profit space. And for those who are really looking for guidance around their education grant making strategy, I wonder if you would share one opportunity that they really should embrace today, and perhaps one obstacle that they might avoid in making investments to advance racial equity in this current environment.
Ann, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here with Bank of America. Sure, I’m happy to tell you a little bit about how the Foundation has evolved, in terms of racial justice and racial equity in our work.
I’d start by just reminding everyone, it’s critical when you start philanthropy to really define your goal and think who your beneficiary audience was. For many years we were generic. We were trying to serve all students. And what we ended up doing over the last few years is really targeting in on black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty.
That’s the central focus of our grant making, in part, because we have strong data that shows those students aren’t achieving across American schools. For example, the National Assessment of Education Progress, a report put out generally by the Federal Government, has found that black and Latino scores are flat across the country. And we haven’t made progress in the last decade.
What’s even more troubling is I’m sure you heard 10 and 15 years ago that the United States was ranked 15th in the world in math and literacy on PISA exams administrated by OECD. The reality was, when you disaggregated those tests by race, you found that white students were in the top three countries of the world. They were treated as a country. And black and Latino students were generally at the bottom of the world scale in both metrics.
So we really decided to define our grant making against that enduring challenge of racial justice in our schools. So one of the things that has been amazing is how we’ve continued to lean in and learn. Having that goal as a North Star is helpful and then you continually make grants against that goal, to see what you can figure out and what you can learn.
One thing that we’ve discovered is that young people aren’t frequently included in these conversations. And yet we want them to grow up and be good citizens and have a sense of agency. So we’ve really invested in including young people in our grant making and philanthropy over the last few years. We just released about $5.5 million to 15 grantees who are youth development and youth focused organizations.
So I guess I would say choose your strategy and then really learn as you lean into that strategy going forward.
That makes a ton of sense. Ebony, maybe I’ll segue on that to you and continue with that education theme. The Bank of America Corporation has invested heavily in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and so many other educational initiatives, including through the billion dollar Initiative, which you’re leading.
How can our guests today really select and find high impact grant partners in this space?
So first, I’m delighted to be here today. So thank you Ann for having me. I’m excited to be with
Bob and Jeannie. So excited for the conversation. So let me first root everyone in I think the commitment. Because I think it’s really important that we’ve been doing this work, but I really want our audience to understand the work, why we chose this commitment and really what we’re trying to do.
For generations there’s been systemic racism. And quite honestly, that systemic racism has created a wealth gap. So for example, a white family eight times the wealth of black families and five times the wealth of Latino families.
And so the work that we’ve been building on, building longstanding focus on advancing racial equity and economic opportunity. And quite honestly, our dual mandate of responsible growth, back in June, we announced this billion dollar commitment, to further advance that focus in communities of color.
Ways in which we can reduce that wealth gap. And we know one of the ways that we can reduce that wealth gap is through education. And particularly through higher education. I think we are at a unique moment now where we can really think about how public and private meets, to meet this moment. How they create work and initiatives that can focus on creating opportunities in education.
So for example, some of the work that we’ve been focused on is our $25 million commitment. That commitment was rooted in, quite honestly, an ecosystem where we have markets, we have our industries and we have university partners. So a collection of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and community colleges meet within this ecosystem to create pathways to create a vision for students coming out of these communities into high-skill jobs.
And the secret sauce in this ecosystem is having all of these partners together, brining industry together, because they understand who and what the needs are, what are those high demand jobs. We have the universities that are the vehicles in which students are pass-throughs to from education into the workforce. And so working directly with these institutions to create these pathways, ensuring that the curriculum and the classes and the fields of study that are being offered to these students, directly aligns to that and the labor market needs.
And then the ecosystem that happens within these communities, these cities, these markets where you have leaders within the community that are focused on connecting the dots between higher education and industry. And so for us being able to fuel that through initial $25 million seed money has been, quite honestly, one of our signature initiatives.
The ways in which we focus, particularly on HBCU is represented in the work that we’re doing around the Center for Black Entrepreneurship. So that’s $10 million seeding Spelman and Morehouse. And quite honestly, the first of its kind. This really is about helping to achieve social economic mobility for communities of color, particularly the black community. And the Center of Black Entrepreneur seeks to eliminate barrierism on black entrepreneurs, professional investors, and business builders by leveraging mentorship and access to capital.
When you think about those black businesses or those mentor firms that have access to capital, it’s very, very small. And so seeking to eliminate those barriers through this work with black entrepreneurs and professionals, and so of course Bank of America wanted to be part of seeding that work and being a part of something, quite honestly, groundbreaking within these two institutions.
So this is two representations of how we think the billion dollars can fuel success within higher education, but also the secret sauce of then bringing in folks within the community and higher educational system.
Yeah, I mean there’s no doubt that education is so essential to economic mobility. Jeannie, though, let me turn to you. I mean some women have achieved educational parity. Many have outpaced men, in fact, for years in the US. But they have not yet attained equity in the workforce or on corporate boards. And I think 2020 made that disparity more apparent than ever. So what strategies do you recommend to donors there?
Thank you so much, Ann, and I want to add my gratitude to be able to be part of this important conversation, in particular with Bob and Ebony and Dianne today.
So a core message that we share at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute is that today, more and more women have increased access to education, income and wealth, which are key predictors of philanthropy. But as you alluded to in your question, numerous reports are indicating that women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding economic downturn, which is being referred to as a “she session”.
And the United Nations published a policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women in April of 2020. And even early in the pandemic recognized that comprising the majority of essential workers, to accepting greater caretaking responsibilities, not only for children, but also for other relatives, women have been on the front lines of the crisis at work and at home.
And women have also experienced higher rates of job loss, poverty and domestic abuse. While their access to important services, like healthcare, has been greatly diminished. And so we know from research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, that giving to women and girls’ organizations, in particular, really only receive 1.6% of overall charitable giving. And many of whom these organizations are on the front line of this charge for gender equity.
So with a fraction of charitable dollars going to women and girls, I think if donors are interested in supporting organizations and leaders that are pushing for gender progress, I would recommend three things. One, prioritize your community and consider giving to women’s foundations, funds or giving circles within your – in your area. These groups historically are organizations that support grassroots nonprofits that happen to prioritize women and girls.
Secondly, support women of color-led organizations. Vanessa Daniels is the Executive Director of Groundswell explained in a New York Times opinion piece in November of 2019, that philanthropy has historically benched women of color, who have a deep understanding of how to drive meaningful social change.
To give a way that is effective, timely and impactful, it’s really critical for donors to identity and support nonprofits that are led by women of color, thus ensuring that effective communities have a prominent voice in the creation of this solution.
And third, be visible with your support. We know from a December 2018 study at WPI that look at social norms, that giving begets giving. And when people believe that others are interested in giving to women’s and girls’ causes, they are more likely to give themselves.
And the last thing I will say is that if you are motivated to give to women and girls, you can look at all of your giving through the gender lens. It doesn’t have to be an either/or. I’m a firm believer in the both/and. So if you support the arts, consider supporting programs that specifically target women and girls. Or if you regularly give to your alma mater, explore ways that you can specifically support scholarships and programs that focus on women and girls.
Ann, can I jump in really quick before we move to the next topic?
You know, this is where I think the convergence of public and private meet, or philanthropy and not-for-profit. You know, organizations or companies have a space and have a great responsibility in this work as well. When I think about Bank of America and some of the work that we’re doing, particularly around Cornell – I didn’t talk about that earlier -- but this is a program that we started a couple years ago. We’ve since expanded that opportunity, quite honestly, for women entrepreneurs.
Right, when we think about how women entering not only the workspace, but the entrepreneur space, our economy can be fully realized when everyone is participating and involved. And this program has evolved into a 50,000 person seat opportunity. The virtual nature now of our ability to bring it to a much broader and wider audience is pretty amazing. So we are excited about the work that we’re doing with Cornell around the Women’s Entrepreneur Institute.
The other thing that I would call out too, and beyond the small business or the entrepreneur piece of it, that companies have a hand in what’s being described around the onset of COVID in the disproportionate impact, in some ways, to that of women.
And so strategies and things that we’ve deployed at Bank of America around supporting parents and caregivers of all age is so important. And expanding a dedicated team of Life Events Services, or what we call LES, of people go through things in life and need that support to be able to get through that.
And so having those services available, ensuring that our teammates across the country have 24/7 virtual tele-health resources. These are all things that are critically important to maintaining women in the workplace, but also helping them grow and thrive as well in the economy. So I just wanted to mention that as a double-down on Jeannie’s comment.
Yeah, I love that Ebony. I think some great examples in there through the Cornell Program. And just the whole point you raised about this ecosystem and the importance to support the ecosystem in all ways. Dianne, maybe I turn to you. Jeannie gave some great examples of the challenges that are out there, also examples of ways that we can work through them.
I’d love to have you share some of the best practices or funding patterns that have emerged among our clients over the last year that you’ve really been amplifying.
Ann, thank you for the opportunity to share some of what our Philanthropic Strategy team has learned working with our clients. I know I speak on behalf of our entire national team when I say that supporting our clients’ generosity over the past year and addressing the impact of the multiple and related crises has been an extraordinary honor.
I lived through the Great Recession, working as an advisor to nonprofits and philanthropists. And I remember all too well the significant declines in giving, and also the declines in rates of donor participation during that time. And notwithstanding the fact that I’m on record as a fierce optimist.
At the onset of the pandemic, I was fearful about the impact on the charitable sector. And you’ll recall that last summer, Candid predicted that up to 38% of nonprofit organizations would close their doors, due to the disruption of the pandemic. And given what we’ve heard already today, about the fact that organizations led by and serving ethnically diverse people and women, tend to be undercapitalized as a baseline, we were really fearful that these nonprofits who are essential to advancing economic mobility goals, would be at even a higher risk of closure.
So forget thriving. Right, we were talking about survival of these organizations. So fast-forward to today and here’s what we know. Americans are compassionate and they are generous. Our worst fears were not realized. We’re still waiting for full-year data for 2020, but a report from Blackbaud published last month suggests that giving actually increased last year, luckily 2% overall.
And we’ve seen that data firsthand working with our clients. The fundraising results have been encouraging for our operating charities, particularly those serving basic needs, food security, especially, and also for well-known organizations that are advancing racial equity goals.
But that said, giving was not allocated consistently, right. According to that Blackbaud report, for example, funding for the arts was down 9.5% year over year. Even in an environment where the arts have never been more important. Virtual exhibits and performances, yeah, they provided that much needed inspiration when we were homebound.
And I would say, Ann, particularly with the topic today, even more importantly, the arts continue to be a tool to create that radical empathy that Isabel Wilkerson describes, right. The arts have the power to create proximity that might not otherwise exist between donors and the communities that they intend to serve.
And in our experience, that proximity can be essential, not only to ignite an interest, but then also sustain giving to achieve racial and gender equity goals. Our clients, they’ve really inspired us with their intentional works to confront their own personal implicit bias, and then to use that knowledge to really lean into these particularly racial-equity giving goals.
We describe this process and recommend a few great online tools in our Racial Equity Giving Guide. It’s on our website and we’ll send the link in an email to our guests after the call today.
What we have not seen this year is a reversal of the trend that nonprofits are increasingly relying on a smaller and more affluent circle of donors, many whom are our clients and guests today. Nonprofits were – they were counting on them in this very difficult time and wow, wow, they showed up. High-capacity donors have been a lifeline and the rocket fuel for the sector. The nonprofits needed them and they delivered.
So in May, we will share the first look at our latest research on these high-capacity donors in our Bank of America Study of Philanthropy. It’s, as you know, our biannual report that we’ve published in partnership with the Lily Family School since 2006. And this information, it’s not only for nonprofits seeking these transformational gifts, it’s also for donors to be more aware through peer benchmarking, and also to use the data to develop or perhaps evolve their own giving plans. We just can’t wait to share these latest findings. It’ll be great.
Thank you Dianne. And a lot there. I certainly agree, last year was such an unprecedented year. Bob, you and I were speaking earlier this week about the ups and downs of last year. And while there were so many fears and concerns as a result of the pandemic, there was also upside there too, one of which was this renewed attention on the issue of equity. I’m curious, what has the Gates Foundation done differently as a result of the pandemic and this renewed attention to equity last year?
Thanks for that question. What we’ve done is really rethought some of our priorities and shifted resources. So quickly after the pandemic started to rear its ugly head and we saw 50 million school students shift from in-school opportunities to virtual at-home opportunities, we started to kind of aggressively think about things like digital access.
8 to 10 million students don’t have access even now, a year into the pandemic, according to a Common Sense Media report that just was published. So we’ve spent a lot of time working with states and governments actors to really think about playbooks that they can use to close the divide, get devices out to young people; and hopefully ameliorate some of the extraordinary disruption that has occurred in many of those students’ lives.
You know, it’s a classic problem for philanthropy. On the one hand you really want to put computers in students’ hands, and it’s great if you do that. By the same token, to systematically change that strategy, you have to have government involved.
So we really carved out opportunities where we would make a small grant, for example, to Common Sense Media with the Walton Family Fund. They would study the issue and put out a report. It’s one of those classic synergies where that report generated activity in Washington; and we now have an $8 billion fund that’s being directed towards digital divide.
So it’s interesting. A small amount of money can go a long way. So I would encourage investors to really think hard about that.
The second thing we’ve done is we actually reallocated almost $200 million to recognize the fact that the digital divide is going to be enduring. Fifty percent of teachers went on Google Classroom at the height of the pandemic. Every teacher had to learn how to use Zoom or Teams or a variety of different ways to connect with their students.
They were heroic. But we really learned a lot. Teachers who used to say I’ll never get on computers. I’ll never work effectively with that kind of technology, are now pros. And we will need to kind of continue to build with professional development, really build out tools, help curriculum developers transition to digital, because we think it’s going to be durable over the long term.
Something like 60 or 70% of teachers and parents, according to Rand, say that digital infrastructure that we’re building is going to be a permanent part of the landscape.
If I may, I wanted to talk about something that’s prospective and I think is a real opportunity for many folks on the line. The government has just, through the stimulus package, announced an allocation of almost $130 billion to school systems across the United States. I would argue that’s a real opportunity for philanthropists at all levels of the system to get involve and help their local district and local community organizations.
Think about how they can get into that market, help allocate those resources against the highest need students who exist in their schools. I’ve been talking to superintendents for the last couple of weeks. They really need help figuring out who are the good vendors and who are the vulture vendors. Who are the community-based organizations that they should reach out to and invest in? How should they be thinking about long-term sustainable investments in the landscape in a district or in a state that can really make a difference?
CCSSO, an organization that Council of Great City – Council of Chief State School Officers, is about to issue a 10-point plan on key areas that people may want to consider investing in as part of COVID recovery. And I would encourage people to go to their website in the next few weeks, because it’s going to be something that’s sanctioned by the Department of Education; and it’s going to involve almost 50 different states in their State Education Departments.
So it’s a great place to connect in and figure out how you can make your philanthropy both impactful now and direct public dollars that can really change the trajectory of kids, particularly black and Latino kids and students experiencing poverty. We need to build back braver and better, and I think we have a real opportunity to transform the system even as we’re addressing needs of kids who’ve fallen behind as a result of the pandemic.
Yeah, Bob, that’s so well said. And such a perfect segue I think. Education being such an important focal point and the need to be up front and visible. I can’t think of a better example of that than McKenzie Scott and as so many of us on the phone know, McKenzie Scott, philanthropist, gave an extraordinary $4.2 billion in December to 384 organizations of all types and sizes, and a real focus in that giving around education, equity and mobility.
And Jeannie, I’m curious, what do you think that that extraordinary gift really signaled about the future of philanthropy? And are there are a few takeaways that all donors can really learn from her, given Bob’s point earlier?
Absolutely, thank you for that. Yes, I mean one of the things that I think about immediately, with regards to McKenzie Scott’s gift is this may be signaling a new era in terms of women’s philanthropy, in particular.
But there are lessons for everyone in this. So in the big picture, McKenzie Scott’s gift is unique in many ways. Its scope, its scales, the transparency and impact, all provide lessons for donors in the long term. And as she herself explained in her medium piece from December of last year, Scott’s team spent significant time researching the nonprofits that best suited, that were best suited to reach her goals. And entrusted these organizations by providing them with unsolicited, unrestricted gifts.
And as you might imagine, our research team was ecstatic when she shared this quote. “Because our research is data driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft.” And we can’t think of a better way to describe research to practice.
And moreover, the organizations that she gave to. They ranged in size and form, covering both immediate basic needs and tackling larger systemic inequity. And typically, even the largest charitable gifts tend to come from individuals to their foundation, which are then distributed more slowly over time. We rarely see this level of giving from an individual to many nonprofit organizations so quickly.
Only the very largest foundations and a handful of individuals will give away anything near $4 billion in a single year, much less $6 billion in six months. Let’s not forget that she also gave away $1.7 billion last summer.
So there’s a lot of discussion in philanthropy about the value of giving while living, giving money away quickly and not letting it sit in endowments. But this type of gifting, it’s truly unprecedented in recent memory.
And circling back to my earlier statement about the importance of supporting women and girls, amongst McKenzie Scott’s 384 nonprofit recipients, a significant share, over 17%, are nonprofits that serve women and girls, according to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s recent Women and Girls Index.
And so by comparison, 3.4% of all US nonprofits serve women and girls. So her gift will have a much needed impact now and in the long term. And it’s the type of investment that has the potential to move the needle on giving to women’s and girls’ causes, especially if it has a ripple effect of inspiring others.
Could I just jump in there Ann, because I just really want to – I so appreciate everything Jeannie is saying and want to underscore. From the Gates Foundation perspective, the Donors Pledge is an opportunity to work with many other folks in philanthropy thinking about how they want to give dollars.
I just wanted to underscore a couple things Jeannie said. One, it’s really important to listen to grantees. And I think McKenzie Scott and some of the other donors in the Pledge really do that incredibly well. A second is to really stick with the data to use what you know about these organizations to challenge them. But ultimately, respect their general operating budgets and help them do the work they were designed to do. Because they’re closest to the field.
And frequently, one of the pleasures of being in philanthropy is learning about worlds you don’t know about, understanding problems that you think you may have had the answer, but you discover through your giving that there are other answers.
And finally, I think really, I just want to underscore how important it is to give dollars to people in affected groups who are close to communities and are proximate problems, whether it be women or people of color. I think we’ve learned a lot about how we need to empower the sector, really focusing on those leaders of color and leaders.
I know Melinda, for example, is doing a lot around gender; and she’s really worked hard on addressing that through female-led organizations. So Jeannie, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.
Yeah, a great point. And Dianne, a perfect segue to you. I mean your team really sits at this interaction that Bob and Jeannie are talking about, between the funders, the donors and the organizations. Kind of the donors and the doers. And you have been very focused, you and the team, in your efforts this year, really to bring those two closer together, to understand each other and to communicate. What are a few key strategies that you’re sharing today to help both sides really achieve that goal?
Yeah, that’s a great question Ann. What we know from the Bank of America’s study of philanthropy that I referenced earlier, is that most high-net worth donors begin with their own personal values – right, 74%, according to the most recent report, which was back in 2018, their personal values, as informed individually, families, corporate.
They must anchor an intentional high-impact giving plan. But the key, of course, is to understand where your values and the needs of your community intersect, right? And so the question then becomes, how do you discern that intersection?
And of course, as Jeannie and Bob have pointed out, start with the data. But most, if not all of it is available in the public domain, right. When you find gaps, when data’s not available and you need to seek input from your potential grantees or others that are adjacent to or aligned with them, what we really, really encourage our donors to do is to compensate them for their expertise and for their time.
It can be in the form a consulting contract or it can be a gift. We also encourage our clients to take a page out of the McKenzie Scott playbook and eliminate any unnecessary friction in their grant selecting process. Look at, again, the data online. IRS Forms 990, they’re right there on GuideStar. Often audited financials are posted on websites. There’s so much in the public domain that can help you make a really informed set of decisions around your giving.
Keep in mind though, that for some of the smaller organizations, particularly where there are cultural language differences, lack of digital access, you may need to think differently about how you learn about them and engage them in your process.
So think about whether a phone call or a socially-distanced visit to their location would be adequate. And I would say also, of course, as a donor, consider whether your words and your actions are aligned, right. If you say that you trust your grantees, are you expressing that in the way in which you’re giving your grant? Is general operating support and multiyear commitment, is that your baseline? Is that your starting point?
I also want to go back to a point that I made earlier and that Jeannie and others have underscored, which is that organizations that are led by actively diverse people and women, are often underfunded, right. They need our support. So, eyes wide open, right. Audit your own giving. Look at the past years and don’t just assess the number of gifts that you’ve made, but also the amount that you’ve given to these organizations that are on the front lines of social change.
We encourage our donors to consider supporting a range of organizations that are focused on equity and economic mobility, not just established organizations, but also those that are emerging. So many name-brand organizations are doing incredible work and they really do deserve your support. But there are also grassroots organizations that are innovating and are embedded in local communities where they benefit some tremendous trust.
But sometimes these organizations are tough to find and tough to vet, particularly for donors that are funding big dollars on an accelerated timeline. And so one efficient way to solve for this dilemma is by entrusting funds to community-based giving circles to re-grant. Check out Philanthropy Together for more information about a summit coming up in May so you can learn about how you can connect in with this collected giving movement, which is democratizing and diversifying philanthropy in really, really exciting ways.
One last point. And is that we’re having these conversations not only with funders, but also operating charities. We encourage nonprofits in every sub-sector, not just education and human service, but also health, the arts, faith-based organizations, the environment to elevate issues around gender, equity and racial justice in their mission and in their fundraising appeals.
This is not mission drift. Quite the contrary. This is simply a recognition that inequity is structural and personal and entrenched. And unless we all prioritize and relentlessly pursue these goals, we won’t achieve them.
Yeah, I think it’s clear that so many of our clients, as we’re working with them, are really increasingly pulling multiple levers to create pathway for economic mobility. And as Dianne referenced, even our own Bank of America Study of Philanthropy, at least in the initial data, I think is also echoing that same sentiment.
You know, Ebony, I’ll turn to you. Can you maybe talk a bit more about our enterprise and the billion dollar strategy that we have out there. How are we embracing that nuanced approach?
Absolutely Ann. And before I go to that question, I mean Bob and Jeannie put so much on the table. I cannot pass this opportunity just to double-click on a few points that they made.
You know, number one, when I think about McKenzie Scott and I think about Dianne, what you just talked about, in terms of the pathways to success. I’m a Historically a Black College graduate; and I understand that for the last 150 or so years, these institutions have been the pathways to black professionalism, have been the pathway to the black middle class.
And so these pathways, this funding is substantial. And you can’t let that go to waste in terms of what that will mean, not only right now, but long term. And it’s why we do a lot of our support and funding to Historically Black Colleges as well. We understand the significance and importance of what they represent within these communities. So I wanted to just double-click on that.
And one of the things that Jeannie talked about was giving while living. And linking back to our Study on Philanthropy, one of the main points that I pulled out from that study is, people also give of their time. So the question is always, what else can I do? So there is the giving part, but there’s also the giving of your time, your energy, your advocacy on issues and connections back to the community. And so I think that’s really, really important.
And then the piece around Bob talking really about – I loved build it back braver and better. I think that term brave is really what is important there in that facing some of these really tough issues. I felt the energy that Dianne was giving around how she felt about many of these issues. And I think that bravery is what’s really needed in philanthropy now.
And not only is it finding and unearthing those hidden gems, those grassroots organizations that are deep, but when they unearth, they are really giving to the communities and the people that need them the absolute most. So I’m really excited to be a part of this conversation today.
And so when I think about the question, Anne, of other ways in which Bank of America is really focused on the billion dollars, I talked a lot about education and that higher education, the connection to jobs. And I think those elements are really important.
But we’re also focused on systemic issues, right. We gave substantial grants to the Smithsonian. As we think about how do we take the Smithsonian and connect it to the communities, communities who may never have access to the Smithsonian. How do you – again, this is where awareness and access and the private sector can be such a strong player in being able to bring these institutions, these really important institutions to the community and the communities around the country. And so the support of the Smithsonian.
We have a deep support in health, which was new for us. I mean this is where we’re actually listening and connecting with our partners in the community. Bob talked about that too, of listening to the people in which you’re funding, understanding what their needs are. And health has been a space where it hasn’t traditionally been something we’ve been – we’ve had depth in. So we need partners. We need to go out to the community and talk to individuals, understand what the needs are.
There’s an urgency around vaccine distribution, but there’s also an urgency around the disproportionate impact that health, that people of color have had in their experience with healthcare for generations. And so there is a lot of work to do. And so connecting with those community partners is incredibly important.
We’ve done a tremendous amount of work in home and homeownership, with small business. We have our Equity Investment Fund, which is really supporting black, Hispanic, Latino women entrepreneurs, fund managers who are really connected to these businesses to be able to see some of the innovation and amazing work that’s happening.
And so the billion dollars at its core, is about wealth creation. It’s about creating opportunities within the community that connect these communities to build wealth over time; to have a great job, to health, which is also critically important to all of those other elements of homeownership, small business, being able to live the American dream in which we all talk about.
So the commitment, although on paper is a billion, it goes beyond that. It goes to how our employees are engaged and involved; how we are really connected and attached to our communities where they are proximate to the issues. And so the allocation of the funding can really hit those communities who need it the most. And so the work continues. We’re really thrilled and excited about it. And quite honestly, what I heard today from Bob and Jeannie, just really heartens me to know that we’re on the right track here.
Yeah, Ebony, thank you. What a great example of the convergence of for-profit and philanthropy. But also I think it just reinforces a point. And I would throw this out to the panel, maybe Bob to you and to Dianne. The nonprofit sector and charitable grants, why, why are they still critical to achieving goals related to equity and economic mobility, as we think about the convergence of this ecosystem? And maybe Bob, I’ll turn to you first.
Sure. I think the most important – there are two things I would underscore, three things. One, everybody on this call has passions that won’t necessarily get transmitted into government grants or necessarily show up on the front page of the paper. But those passions are real.
And following your passion and then taking risk with dollars, to really kind of go where other funders can’t go or go where government can’t go and really absorb that risk, I think is something important, particularly now at this moment of time in our history where you really do have an opportunity to kind of bend the curve if we’re willing to take the risks to do it to invest in organizations that are undercapitalized, to really pay attention to leaders of color and elevate their voices in the major debates.
Because it’s hard for a government actor to do that. It’s hard sometimes for incumbent organizations to do that. In my view, you want to be investing in an organization and three things can happen. One, it’s a great idea and you’ve invested with a government partner and they can scale it.
Two, it’s a great idea and a not-for-profit or another organization can use it and build upon it. Or three, you make a mistake and you absorb the risks of those government actors and public actors can live another day. We do that a lot at the Foundation where we invest in places that aren’t popular necessarily, or are kind of – I’ve learned more about toilets in India working at the Gates Foundation than I ever expected. But boy, that’s an important issue in India. That infrastructure is critical.
Malaria. It’s about mosquito nets as well as new vaccines and vaccination strategies. And in education it’s about really helping schools build the infrastructure, the professional development, the human capital that’s necessary to enable young people to survive, grow, thrive, and ultimately become the citizens of the country we want to leave for our grandchildren.
So have fun if you’re a philanthropist; follow your passion; and take a little risk, because you’re the people who can do it.
Great advice. Dianne, I know you want to jump in after that. Last word there?
Yes, yes. You know, I am so encouraged that many, including our clients, are pulling multiple levers to create social change, with a focus on gender and racial equity in particular, impact investing, conscious consumerism, advocacy, so much more. But I stand firm that the role of philanthropy remains differentiated and critically important.
First and most importantly, individual and family foundation donors and other philanthropists, they’re largely unencumbered by the market forces that Ebony talked about earlier. Donors have no competitors, only collaborators. And so within the broad parameters set by state and federal law, giving can be creative and joyful, and especially in these times. Donors are called upon to be compassionate and courageous.
Now is the time to embrace philanthropy as activism, as the powerful tool that it is for social change.
Indeed and thank you both. I think so well said. Jeannie, I’m looking at the time. I can’t believe almost 50 minutes has passed. And maybe we’ll close with you. You’re a researcher and WPI’s research continues to reveal and really celebrate how women, in particular, wrap their arms around charitable institutions and issues. And maybe we’ll close with some best practices and guidance that you would give for all donors out there, to wrap their arms around institutions and issues.
Thank you so much Ann. And really, Dianne and Ebony have referenced some of the advice that I’m going to give. So I’ll sum us all up. It’s really important to consider how you’re being strategic and intentional with your giving, especially in building that confidence to take risks, as Bob has suggested.
In our research, it shows that women, in particular, are drawn to a more expansive definition of philanthropy. So my first piece of advice is to really consider all the ways in which you give, as Ebony referenced. You know, women like to express generosity beyond just monetary gifts. So they are as intentional about gifts of time, talent, testimony and tithe.
So volunteerism, advocacy, board leadership, social networks and collective giving are important to consider when you look at all the ways you express philanthropy and give back.
And so I’m going to give a plug for what Dianne shared earlier when she works with her donors. A giving plan exercise is so helpful, as you think about your philanthropic journey and how you reflect on how and if you are expressing your values and your motivations and your issues through their generosity.
And I would challenge donors to really take stock of all the different ways that they’re able to give back, including placing a value on your time and your talent and your testimony and tithes. And mapping all of those resources against the issues and values that you care most about. And by doing this work, you provide yourself – you give yourself your own strategy to be more intentional and to put on paper a vision for giving that creates the framework for acting on that vision.
So I just encourage all of you to do the work. Giving plans allows you and your family the opportunity to dream big, to connect values to actions and to make choices, to be strategic, and more importantly, keep yourself accountable to your vision.
Jeannie, thank you. That’s so beautifully said. We have so much opportunity in front of us. I don’t think we’ve ever been better prepared to really tackle that opportunity. Please, I want to thank our panelists today, Bob, Ebony, Jeannie and Dianne for a terrific conversation and hopefully a very relevant one for our guests who’ve joined us on the WebEx.
And a couple of points in closing. Certainly given the complexity of this topic, we expect that you’ll have many additional questions and we welcome your feedback. Our philanthropic team and your local advisors would be more than grateful for the opportunity to explore these topics more deeply with you.
And so soon, as Dianne mentioned, you’ll receive an email from our team which includes a replay, a link for a replay for today’s discussion and also some follow-up resources which includes our guide for those who are new to giving, to achieve racial equity goals. And I hope you like it.
If you would like to discuss these or any other strategy sooner, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your advisor. We’re here to help.
Also, I’m happy to have you mark your calendar. Our next virtual event will be held on May 4th and that will be a bootcamp for foundation and endowment investment committees. Some great conversation and I think some good practices will be discussed there.
And with that, to all of our panelists, thank you; to all of our guests today, thank you for your leadership, for your time and most of all, for your generosity. Thank you all.
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Dianne Chipps Bailey
National Philanthropic Strategy
Racial Equality and Economic
Director of K-12 Education
Jeannie Infante Sager
Dianne Chipps Bailey
National Philanthropic Strategy
Racial Equality and Economic
Director of K-12 Education
Jeannie Infante Sager
Information is as of 3/18/2021.
Opinions are those of the author(s), as of the date of this recording and are subject to change.
Institutional Investments & Philanthropic Solutions (“II&PS”) is part of Bank of America Private Bank, a division of Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”). Trust and fiduciary services and other banking products are provided by wholly owned banking affiliates of BofA Corp., including Bank of America, N.A. Brokerage services may be performed by wholly owned brokerage affiliates of BofA Corp., including Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (“MLPF&S”).
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This webcast does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice and is issued without regard to specific investment objectives or the financial situation of any particular recipient. Since economic and market conditions change frequently, there can be no assurance that the trends described here will continue or that the forecasts will come to pass. The information presented on this webcast is for discussion purposes only and is not intended to serve as a recommendation or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any type of security.
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