B.L.A.C.C. Fund Farewell
The Spark, Motivation, and Legacy
The Spark and Our Motivation
We are the legacy of Uplifting Change. We are the legacy of Kafi Blumenfield. The legacy of Fran Jemmott. Our story began on a beautiful afternoon in 2014 at a Liberty Hill Uplifting Change event hosted by Fran Jemmott, whom we affectionately call the godmother of Black philanthropy. As she spoke about the various ways Black donors can contribute our time, talent and treasure, a spark was ignited and four friends (Kaci Patterson, Felicia Jones, Ryan Smith, and Sarah Figueroa) were inspired to create a giving circle dedicated to empowering and uplifting the Black community in Los Angeles.
When Building Leaders and Cultivating Change (B.L.A.C.C.) Fund was launched, we wanted to accomplish two things. First and foremost, we want to change the narrative about who a philanthropist is. We wanted to shift the paradigm and present a different set of possibilities for donors and philanthropy broadly. We wanted young Black professionals who care about and talk about Black social justice issues at work, online, with their friends and with their families, to begin to see that their activism didn’t have to be limited to protests. We wanted to create the possibility where they (we) would see themselves/ourselves as donor activists–as philanthropists. At the same time, the profile of a philanthropist was far too one-dimensional (rich, old and white). We wanted to present a different face: to make philanthropy younger and browner, and in our case Blacker. We wanted to acknowledge our cultural tradition as philanthropists, whether that be as tithers to our churches, as organizers of car washes and selling homemade dinners to fund families in need, or as sustainers of our own extended family in times of crisis. Black people have always been philanthropic.
Our Work with Black Donors
When we launched the B.L.A.C.C. Fund, we understood that it would be difficult for our donor base (young, Black professionals) to simply write a check for or even make pledges of $10,000 or $20,000. Our goal was to help them see what was possible by pooling our resources in the community with others. We reinforced a narrative that you don’t have to be a millionaire to be a philanthropist by setting a giving level small enough to be accessible to everyone, including children. By setting contribution levels, we gave our donors decision-making power with opportunities to collectively review and discuss organizations being considered for funding while simultaneously building a sense of community among themselves. We launched education events centered on the Black experience.
Our Lunch & Learn sessions educated our donors by giving them insight into social justice work happening at the grassroots levels and access to conversations and movements happening in philanthropy broadly. In 2016, we launched Prop Parties to help our donors understand the impact of ballot initiatives on the Black community. Over eight years, we grew our member base to 167 with 10 who continued as annual sustainers. Collectively, B.L.A.C.C. Fund donors raised $100,012 and directed gifts to 28 Black-led organizations serving the greater Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.
Our partnership with Liberty Hill is one that we’ll never be able to fully put into words. Gratitude is too small a word. Liberty Hill gave us a platform, showcased the depth of our experience as nonprofit and grassroots leaders, honored our work, directed major gifts to our circle, and provided communications, event planning and logistical support every step of the way. Our partnership has always been one valued in mutuality. As they were giving us infrastructure, we were bringing new ideas and new relationships. Our prop parties are now a Liberty Hill signature. The Principles for Black Equity, which originated through another effort that featured both Kaci and Felicia, became educational tools and donor organizing strategies in the summer of 2020 and beyond as Liberty Hill helped its donors make sense of the racial awakening happening across the country. Our donors, many of whom were new to philanthropy, got to know Liberty Hill and join a broader social justice donor activist community.
We are so proud of the work we supported. From Black worker organizing to housing for formerly incarcerated women, scholarships for Black students and electoral organizing, we moved dollars to our community as a community. And now, as other philanthropic pooled funds focused on Black communities have emerged in the past two years, we can say that the B.L.A.C.C. Fund was among the first. As we close this chapter of the Fund, we look ahead to new ways of shifting both narrative and practice in philanthropy.
Our name is Building Leaders and Cultivating Change, and for the past two years, we have focused our giving on filling a gap in the field by investing in care. The fact remains that dollars to Black-led organizations are still scant in comparison to white-led organizations, and dollars overall for organizations to invest in staff and individual wellness are essentially non-existent. Very few funders invest in staff wellbeing and leader self-care. Our work over the past couple of years has really sought to acknowledge burnout and the fact that self-care also requires funding. In the same way policy adoption doesn't just happen, care doesn't just happen. There has to be intentional investment.
The past two years, our grantmaking has operated under the campaign slogan Show Some Love. We wanted to love on our leaders and ask them to love on their staffs. It was our way of saying ‘we see you’ and ‘we appreciate you.’ As we close this chapter of the B.L.A.C.C. Fund and our partnership with the Liberty Hill Foundation, we know the work of intentionally investing in care cannot stop. We will continue to use the B.L.A.C.C. Fund brand to promote self-care and community wellbeing and we're excited to know that these investments will continue to happen through the Black Equity Collective, an organization founded in 2021 to invest in the long term sustainability of Black-led and Black-empowering organizations. We encourage you to stay connected to us as we expand our programming to specifically focus on staff and community wellness. More to come on that in 2023.
In the meantime, we encourage donors who have been sustainers and contributors to the B.L.A.C.C. Fund to support the Liberty Hill Foundation directly. Other ways to redirect your gift include donating to another giving circle at Liberty Hill that is also committed to racial justice or funding a Black-led organization directly.
It’s always hard to say goodbye but in the powerful words of tennis and cultural icon Serena Williams, it’s not a goodbye but an evolution.
Kaci Patterson & Felicia Jones
B.L.A.C.C. Fund Co-chairs
Building Leaders and Cultivating Change Fund