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Black History Month Feature: Celebrating Black and BIPOC Leaders in Philanthropy

Black History Month Feature: Celebrating Black and BIPOC Leaders in Philanthropy
Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2023 by Carrie Clogg

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is also a time to applaud the philanthropic efforts of communities of color. 

Did you know Black Americans actually give the biggest share of their wealth to charity compared to all other racial or economic groups in the U.S. Furthermore, studies show that Black families donate 25% more of their annual income than white households?

In fact, there is a Donors of Color Network, concentrating on building the collective power of people of color to drive systems change and advance racial equity. Who are some noteworthy donors of color?

Robert F. Smith: Chairman & CEO, Vista Equity Partners  

Smith, the billionaire investor behind the software private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, drew widespread praise in May 2019 when he announced that he and his family would pay off the entire student loan debt of the 2019 Morehouse College graduating class of 396 students.

Along with paying off the student debt, Smith’s $35 million donation also helped establish the Student Success Program to reduce or eliminate debt for all Morehouse grads. The private equity guru also gave the school an additional $1.5 million to create the Robert Frederick Smith Scholars Program and build a park on campus.

Michael Jordan: Former NBA Superstar  

The six-time NBA champion and five-time league MVP, along with Nike’s Jordan Brand, donated $1 million last year to Morehouse College to boost the school’s journalism and sports-related studies program. The donation is meant to bolster a program launched thanks to the donation of another icon, director Spike Lee.

“Education is crucial for understanding the Black experience today,” Jordan said in a press release. “We want to help people understand the truth of our past and help tell the stories that will shape our future.”

The donation to Morehouse is part of a pledge made by Jordan and his brand in 2020 to donate $100 million over the next ten years to combat racism across the country.

LaBron James: Basketball Player and Entrepreneur

Recognizing the life-changing importance of education, The LeBron James Family Foundation invests its time, resources, and attention in the kids of LeBron’s hometown of Akron, Ohio.  Through its I PROMISE program, the foundation serves more than 1,400 Akron-area students by providing them with the programs, support, and mentors they need to succeed in school and beyond.

He also makes it a practice to give to charitable organizations, focused on making a difference in children’s lives, including After-School All-Stars, Children’s Defense Fund, and the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Oprah Winfrey: Television Host and Producer

Guided by the intention of supporting those in need, the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation supports organizations around the world. Oprah Winfrey herself, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, and the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation have helped organizations that serve children, families, and communities, with a specific focus on youth education.  OWCF has also provided assistance to similar organizations since 2010.

Oprah’s mission is to lead, to educate, to uplift, to inspire and to empower women and children throughout the world, opening doors so that each person can begin to define what it would mean to lead their best life and fulfill their own possibility for greatness. It is a lasting commitment to teaching, learning and growing.

We can all be leaders in philanthropy during Black History Month.  Simply showing up and learning about this important time in our history is making a commitment to improving your community.  Businessolver celebrates this important heritage month and is proud to continue our journey to honor contributions of those of color. 

Remember, Black History Month is a starting point for year-round efforts. Employers must support their Black employees’ pursuit of professional equality, physical health, mental wellbeing, and financial freedom.