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Exploring our Resources: Cultures of Giving

August 12, 2009

This article, Cultures of Giving: Collaborating Across Communities of Color to Advance Philanthropy, aims to understand the current level of cross-cultural giving in communities of color.  The author, Patricia Rink, primarily outlines the strengths, barriers, learned lessons, and implications of cross-cultural collaboration in philanthropy, for people of color.

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The report is derived from 30-minute phone interviews of 30 people representing 27 grantee organizations (the report was prepared with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation).  Through the interviews they found that most of the activity described as collaboration should be more accurately termed “affiliation.”  The most successful formal partnership was found to be the Coalition for New Philanthropy , which works to advance philanthropy in African-American, Asian-American and Latino communities in New York.  They stand apart from other coalitions in that they co-sponsor research, educate potential donors about philanthropy in communities of color and work to build bonds between the business and nonprofit sectors.

The report also found that informal networking and peer support across communities of color are widespread and frequent.  It is common for organization leaders to make contacts quickly at conferences and trainings.  The interviews showed that many organizers quickly realized the similarities they share with other communities of color.  The majority of this type of networking is done at Joint Affinity Groups, and Philanthropy Northwest: Grantmakers of Color .

Although cross-cultural networking and communication is occurring, there is still little formal collaboration.   However, there is still strong interest in collaboration because of its many benefits.  Many of the interviewees felt that collaboration would help stretch scarce resources and strengthen the capacity to promote philanthropy overall.  They also feel that collaboration cross-culturally will help organizations get past the competitive model and break down silos.   In order to promote cross-cultural collaboration, interviewees suggested increasing publication of scholarly journals, educating family foundations on how to work with communities of color, and exploration of whether there is a need for a national network of all identity-based groups.

However, interviewees did not generally believe that cross-culturally collaboration and networking were valued in the field of philanthropy.  A lack of time and resources is one of the major barriers they see in collaboration.  Other barriers include: mainstream philanthropy fostering competition, communities of color not being homogeneous, and a lack of understanding and trust between organizations.  To partner successfully, interviewees feel that there had to be an institutional commitment.  In essence, cross-cultural collaboration has to be one of the goals of the organizations. The report concludes by making clear that cross-cultural collaboration will not be successful until organizations increase their trust in other organizations and develop the internal capacity to invest resources in collaboration.

For more information on this report, check out Cultures of Giving under resources.

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