Black Philanthropy Month 2023

Black philanthropy is about more than money


Since it began in 2011, August has marked Black Philanthropy Month, an annual celebration designed to recognize and advance Black giving and funding equity.

This Black Philanthropy Month, we’re thinking about what exactly it means to give. Organizers for this year’s celebration selected “Love in Action” as the theme, which is inspired by the life and times of the late scholar-activist bell hooks’ writings on love as a necessary foundation for true social change.”

The 2023 theme calls for people to examine the rhetoric surrounding philanthropy and its root meaning — love for humanity — to make it real for everyone, including Black people.

In this spirit, our President/CEO Qiana Thomason recently published a piece with the Center for Effective Philanthropy discussing the accountability crossroads at which the funding sector finds itself. Philanthropies in the United States are largely unbothered by government, shareholders, or regulators. And the challenge of this philanthropic freedom is that we must hold ourselves accountable to rebalance capital and resources through reparative investments in service of equity, fairness, and justice.

Of course, as a funder, our first instinct when discussing Black philanthropy is to examine Black charitable giving. In the face of an overwhelming wealth gap — white Americans hold ten times more total wealth than Black Americans and are 28 times more likely to become millionaires — news stories and reports continue to affirm that Black families — more than any other racial groupcontribute the largest portion of their wealth to charity.

This tells a compelling and important story, but it’s not the full story. Black philanthropy and a culture of giving within Black communities extends beyond just financial contributions. Generosity comes in many forms. And Black communities are known for a tradition of service, volunteering, and donating both time and resources.

Shifting the narrative to show how the Black community has defined and shaped the collective progress of the community is why we celebrate Black Philanthropy Month. It is also why in August we celebrate Civic Health Month and people who are advocating for policies that create equitable communities. Because Health Forward recently announced funding support for a batch of organizations working to advance civic engagement, we asked a few Black leaders to share their reflections on the generous civic engagement occurring in Kansas City’s Black communities.


D. Rashaan Gilmore, Founder/President and CEO of BlaqOut

“Black philanthropy flourishes not only in the currency of dollars, but in the currency of civic engagement. When we actively participate in shaping policies, advocating for justice, and fostering community growth, we invest in a legacy of empowerment that echoes through the generations.”  

D. Rashaan Gilmore, Founder/President and CEO of BlaqOut, a nonprofit and movement organization working to improve health care access and create a safe space for Kansas City’s Black LGBTQ+ community.


Phyllis Hardwick, Executive Director of Community Capital Fund

“The legacy of Black philanthropy includes supporting organizations working to improve the well-being of Black people, and other disenfranchised groups, but also growing the civic engagement and political power of Black people. Political power has been stunted because the traditional means of accumulating political capital has been intentionally made more difficult (proximity to elected officials, creating fair and easy ways for eligible votes to caste a ballot, timing of policy meetings being held at the same time of working hours, etc). Civic engagement is the largest resource we have to create a more just and equitable world. Therefore, to care about Black people, to care about Black giving, you must care about civic engagement.”

Phyllis Hardwick, Executive Director of Community Capital Fund, an organization that invests in innovative community development that aligns with, and strengthens, the financial, human, and social capital of historically excluded neighborhoods in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area


Rachel Jefferson, Executive Director of Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group (Groundwork NRG)

“In philanthropy, there is this huge power imbalance between the institutions that have money — money that was stolen and built on the backs of communities that are suffering from current-day oppressive systems and historic racist policies like redlining — and the organizations and people who are doing the actual work. In philanthropy, as in movement work, we must begin to shift how we really understand the nature of building power. This first requires an internal reckoning with how white supremacy and its symptoms show up in our work, in the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous organizers, i.e. how people of color bear the burden of carrying justice-oriented solutions forward, and in the work of stewards of philanthropic dollars.

A  deep self-awareness and thorough self-reflection of how trauma prevents us from moving the equity needle can result in a realization that we need to move away from transactional relationships altogether. Operating through a reframed lens on civic engagement, one that centers people-led projects with resident-led expertise coupled with a reconnection to ancestral practices eg. gathering over food and music, engaging in somatic practices, and relating to the land first, we have an opportunity to create spaces for collective healing in our movement work and transform our shared trauma into shared joy. Philanthropy, especially black philanthropy, should take note and begin to operationalize these practices, perhaps developing a whole new set of skills that will divorce them from the traditions that our country’s white patriarchal system has upheld and place them as true allies in the fight for a Just Transition.”

— Rachel Jefferson, Executive Director of Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group (Groundwork NRG), which sustains and revitalizes the beloved Northeast KCK community through forward-looking and inclusive action rooted in the principles of equity, community cohesion, institutional transparency, and environmental justice.


As Black Philanthropy Month and Civic Health Month wrap up, remember that these ideas are worth celebrating year-round. Health Forward will continue to share important stories and advocate for issues that don’t always get the attention they deserve.

To once again quote Qiana Thomason, “In an era of extreme affronts to the well-being, prosperity, and freedom of Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities, I invite the sector to responsibly reflect on how we will use our platforms of philanthropic freedom with accountability to our altruistic purpose: the love of humankind — a virtuous force to be reckoned with when perfected with power and justice.”