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Black-led Nonprofits Threatened: Increased Demands, Insufficient Resources
3/31/2015 3:40:02 PM

As demands increase on Black-led nonprofit organizations to provide vital help to low-and-moderate-income communities, the resources and capabilities of those organizations have not kept pace.

That is the conclusion of a new report released by the Bay Area Black United Fund (BABUF), which develops strategies for uplifting and empowering Black communities throughout the Bay Area.  According to BABUF, the report is especially important to the Bay Area because the nonprofit sector plays such a large role in the region's economy.      

The report, Black-Led Organizations in the Bay Area: From Crisis to Change, highlights the precarious state of many Black-led organizations (registered nonprofit organizations with Black staff and/or Board leadership) in the Bay Area, and proposes concrete solutions for sustaining these critical institutions.

"In the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008, Black families lost nearly 54% of their wealth, manifested by the loss of homes, jobs and consequences to entire neighborhoods," said Duane Poe, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Bay Area Black United Fund.  "We must take action now to ensure that vital services to the Bay Area's low-and-moderate-income communities are preserved by strengthening the nonprofit organizations that address the needs of these communities."

The report – based on an online survey to which 71 Bay Area organizations responded and two focus groups of 20 nonprofit executives – identifies challenges similar to those of many nonprofits in many locations: limited financial resources, small staff, inadequate planning and marketing, and only basic program evaluation.

Unique, though, is the report's recommendation that the solution for Black-led nonprofits is a multi-year, collective effort organized by the Bay Area Black United Fund to provide access to increased resources, advice, coaching, training, and succession planning for nonprofit leaders.

"The way this is going to change, the way nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable communities will become more sustainable," said East Bay Community Foundation President & CEO James W. Head, a member of the BABUF working group that managed the study, "is through these very organizations working together, not separately, in a concentrated, funded, collective effort.  The effort must provide new tools and resources, as well as increased efficiency by sharing common administrative and support services, such as office space, financial accounting, and other functions."                

At the same time, Bay Area Black-led organizations tend to be mature, anchor institutions serving the most vulnerable populations with committed and passionate leaders and Boards.

"The role and need of Black-led organizations is inescapable. Historically, Black-led organizations and  leaders, closest to communities, have ensured that communities most impacted by inequities had a voice in defining solutions, developing policies and changing unjust institutional practices," said Sandra Davis, Program Manager for The California Endowment. "Today, Black children are disproportionately disciplined and pushed out of schools, racially profiled, unemployed, locked up and killed. Inequities are as stark as ever. California's future is tied to the life course of these children, and the Black-led institutions with the deepest credibility to serve, advocate and organize in these communities."

According to the report, 32% of the leaders responding to the survey have been at the helm of their organizations for more than 10 years and 63% are contemplating an exit within the next five years. A critical issue is the lack of a leadership pipeline to fill these future gaps.

Leaders of Black-led organizations cited the three most critical resources needed for success: additional revenue to support growth; best-in-class organizational systems and training; and leadership development for Boards and staff.

This report helps make the case for longer-term, strategic and culturally appropriate investments in building the capacity of BLOs in the Bay Area. A comprehensive field-building model is paramount to move Bay Area BLO's from crisis to change. A field-building model should include strategies to stabilize, grow and sustain these important organizations through: multi-year core support; assistance creating and building social enterprises and reserves; technology upgrades; learning and networking opportunities; and, mentoring and leadership development pipelines.

The research was supported by grants from The California Endowment, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, The San Francisco Foundation and The Y&H Soda Foundation and led by a working group that also included representatives of the Bay Area Black United Fund, The Brotherhood of Elders and The East Bay Community Foundation.



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