Solidarity, not charity! The event on Dec. 16th lived up to its name, sharing ways to come together over giving. The Info Hub hosted the online community event which focused on the nuts and bolts of community-led philanthropy. 

The evening was inspired by comments from Germantown neighbors said Diana Lu, Info Hub Project Coordinator. “One of the things that have come up many times has been community members who are either starting a project or they have applied for grants in the past and have been rejected, many of them are first time applicants and have had difficulty getting funding. They had expressed a little bit of frustration in the entire process.”

A group of panelists answered questions on the best ways for a community organization to apply and  receive funding.. Half of the panelists were from community philanthropy networks and the other were groups who had received grants from foundations

Rashanda Perryman from the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle and Cathy Fong from the Asian Mosaic Fund said the traditional philanthropy models leave communities out. 

“So for those who work outside philanthropy and outside of the nonprofit sector, it is rather mysterious, and not quite transparent,” Fong said. “So philanthropy was created, like, the system was created as  a tax shelter, to hoard wealth. A lot of them don’t let you ask for money. They have to invite you to apply for money.”

So, a group of Asian Americans and African Americans started an innovative way to share wealth called giving circles. Perryman said one of the reasons there is a community philanthropy group like the Black Giving Circle is to instill trust in the community. 

“Black people can start an organization to help other black people and get less money [when applying for funding]…and that is such an example of the way that philanthropy has long worked,” Perryman says. “The distrust that happens when it comes to get putting dollars into communities of color.”

After the nuts and bolts of philanthropy were discussed, panelists gave tips about the funding application process. Malia Neal, the executive director at Horizons at Greene Street Friends, represented groups who applied and received funds from community giving circles. 

An obstacle many organizations can face is their application being rejected—but Neal said rejection may be useful: “I think that it’s okay to hear no, because at least you’re hearing something. And I think that that connection is valuable. Because the next time you go to that funder, or that grant maker might be a no, but you know, this is how you can tailor your proposal to be a little bit more effective.”

Looking past rejection, City of Philadelphia Office of Grants & Community Partnerships, Deputy Director Jocelyn Jones Arnold said even when money can’t be given, it is still essential to establish connections with funders. 

“Don’t think that you can only look to a funder for money. Because if they believe in you and your work, they will at least say well, you know, we can’t support you. But talk to one of our grantees that does similar work or is in your community, and maybe you can, you know, work together and build capacity that way. Not enough people think that way.”

And lastly, Perryman shared  the phrase, ‘guilt money’ to the group. 2020 is   the year of the pandemic, and  racism was also an important concern, along with police brutality. Perryman said funders are looking to help Black and brown groups, and those groups should take advantage.

“Everyone on this phone call, who’s working in the community, particularly with Black and brown folks, you should be reaching out right now to some of the biggest funders in the city and saying, ‘I’m working with Black and brown folks, here’s how you can put some money in the community.’”