Multi-ethnic effort to ‘pay it forward’ - The Buffalo News
print logo

Multi-ethnic effort to ‘pay it forward’

According to the Kellogg Foundation, “identity-based philanthropy” is a $400 million annual industry.

That may come as news to critics always calling on communities of color to do for themselves.

The reality is that they already are.

Buffalo, in fact, has taken it a step further. Rather than each ethnic group doing its own thing, 20 leaders of color came together, giving money and time to create a multi-ethnic philanthropic initiative looking to create a half-million-dollar endowment. The aim is to “pay it forward” by helping low-income youth of color, just as someone helped them.

Now they’re close to the goal, looking to raise $89,000 by year’s end to reach a $300,000 target and claim a $100,000 matching grant. That, combined with $100,000 previously raised – half from another matching grant by the same anonymous donor – would help the Cultures of Giving Legacy Initiative establish its endowment.

The launch next week of a social media fundraising drive, including a new video on its website at showing its successes, will help.

But the effort is measured not just by dollars, but by the impact it already has had on teens since its 2008 founding by four community leaders of color.

It has taken low-income kids of color to the nation’s capital; taken them to local businesses and cultural institutions to meet with executives, performing artists and speakers of color visiting Buffalo as part of its “Success Looks Like Me” program; taken them on local college tours and provided leadership training. Many events were streamed live to city schools to reach more kids.

But after meeting with other agencies, the consensus was that Buffalo didn’t need another program; it needs an institution that will be there for the long haul, said Jennifer Parker, CGLI chairwoman and president of the Black Capital Network consulting company.

Hence, the endowment.

The effort builds on a philanthropic tradition that, in the black community, for example, has centered on the church and involved contributing to everything from the anti-slavery and civil rights efforts to business development. Other ethnic groups have similar traditions of committing dollars and time to reach back and help pull one another along. In fact, in its Cultures of Giving report last year, the Kellogg Foundation noted that “the face of philanthropy is rapidly changing to become as ethnically, culturally and socioeconomically diverse as our country’s population.”

What makes the Buffalo effort different is the collaboration among various groups of color under the auspices of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. It’s self-help that has expanded the definition of “self” to include others who may come from a different ethnic group, but who are in the same boat.

“It’s a real sincere effort to help the youth,” said Joan Yang, one of the 20 leaders and president/founder of Rand & Jones construction.

How will they know if they’re succeeding? The number of students who, in turn, are looking for ways to help others indicates they already are.

“When you see that they take that gift and they’re giving it right back, then we know that we’ve done our job,” said Britney McClain, director of CGLI.

It’s philanthropy, with a new twist, among those long admonished to step up by critics unaware they already have.


There are no comments - be the first to comment