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A Local Leader Calls for Investment in Black Women-led Nonprofits

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features philanthropist, fundraiser and advocate Akilah S. Wallace, who serves as Executive Director of Faith in Texas.

Akilah S. Wallace
Akilah S. Wallace, courtesy of Akilah S. Wallace
  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I started out in the nonprofit sector and philanthropy, I wish I knew the diversity of career paths available and how both work and volunteer experiences in private and public sectors provided much-needed, transferable skills. Additionally, I wish I knew how valuable my lived experiences as a Black woman, single mother, volunteer and more, could help shape culturally-relevant programs, policies and how resources are distributed.

  • What is your current greatest professional challenge?

My current greatest professional challenge is ongoing advocacy for “equitable” investment in Black women’s leadership throughout the nonprofit sector. Earlier this year, Philanthropy Women published an article about the discrepancies in funding for Women of Color-led nonprofits. Since then, major funds like Black Girl Freedom Fund, Grantmakers for Girls of Color and Ms. Foundation for Women have launched investments prioritizing Black women and girls. These represent upward movement; however, I question the depth of the ripple effect and its reach with local and regional funders. The competition for national funds is massive and I am concerned that other funders are not following their lead and doing the hard internal work, such as evaluating racial inequities in funding policies, or wrestling with racial bias and privilege, etc., which should lead to increased funding in Black women-led nonprofits.

  • What inspires you most about your work?

Having access to dozens of brilliant, bold and badass women with a diversity of thought, leadership, lived, and shared experience; spiritual and healing practice; and economic status inspires me the most about my work. Prior to working in nonprofits and philanthropy, I rarely engaged in meaningful conversations with people outside of my comfort zone. Now, I not only have established multi-year relationships with wealthy women who periodically check on my family but I have embarked on powerful policy campaigns alongside women on the margins, fighting for pathways to freedom, citizenship, quality education for their children and more. Every time I make a financial ask on behalf of our most vulnerable populations, I am inspired. Sharing testimonies, finding shared interests and speaking about the impact funding makes, inspires me to show up each and every day.

I am grateful for Dallas’ local funders who listened to recommendations from grassroots leaders on who to direct funds to in response to COVID-19 and heightened racial tension following protests.

  • How does your gender identity inform your work?

My gender identity informs my work on a daily basis. First, in my experience, the majority of nonprofit staff are female. The grant managers and family decision-makers about giving have been female. The clients being served by many of the organizations are majority female. Everywhere I go, within the sector I am most likely to engage with a female. It is also important to note that they are generally cis-gender female, as well. However, I am grateful for my years working in community organizing because it has expanded my understanding of how systemic racism and patriarchy contributed to my past work experiences in predominantly white female spaces and shaped my current perspectives as a Black woman leading a multi-racial, multi-faith social justice movement. This is also why my giving circle chose to prioritize membership and financial investment for Black women. Unfortunately, I also feel added pressure as a female leader both professionally and personally.

  • How can philanthropy support gender equity?

Philanthropy can support gender equity by establishing clearly defined and written equitable policies and practices. Institutions should have gender equity standards for its staffing, decision-making, funding and revenue, such as a gendered investments mix. Individual donors should ask nonprofits they fund about how they are prioritizing gender equity. Philanthropy can support gender equity by learning how history has contributed to inequities and committing to change the course, now, for future generations.

  • In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equity movements taking us?

In the next 10 years, I see gender equity movements transforming the world. Honestly, each generation has benefited from the relentless efforts made by gender equity leaders in education, civil and voters rights, LGBTQ+, feminist, girl power, environmental, healthcare and global movements. I believe current day events will result in a healthier, safer and less-impoverished world, and that the baton will be passed on to the next generation of gendered and non-gender conforming leaders with bright, innovative ideas that align with a reimagined society that benefits the collective.

More on Akilah S. Wallace:

Akilah S. Wallace is the Executive Director of Faith in Texas, a nonpartisan, multi-racial and multi-faith grassroots movement of people united in values working together to achieve economic, racial and social justice for all people. She has two decades of experience as a relationship manager, with expertise in nonprofit leadership, fund development, African-American media sales, and project management.

Wallace’s love for connecting community organizations with financial and in-kind resources has resulted in millions of revenue support. She is currently pursuing a degree in Human Services Management & Leadership at the University of North Texas at Dallas and has earned a Nonprofit Management Certificate from the Center for Nonprofit Management in Dallas, TX.

Akilah’s philanthropic leadership includes the founding of HERitage Giving Fund at Moore Impact, a Black women’s giving circle that has awarded $100,000+ in grants to Black women-led nonprofits; and #BlackDFWGives, an educational and inspiring, online initiative seeking to elevate platforms for philanthropy education, charitable giving and future generations of philanthropists of color.

Her distinguished honors include the 2021 Inaugural Black Women Give Back List, 2019 Young Black and Giving Back Institute Philanthropist of the Year, Dallas Business Journal 40 Under 40 and The Dallas Foundation Top 10 Good Works Under 40 Award. Akilah is a founding member of Power in Action, charter member of the Texas Women’s Foundation’s XIX Society and a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Her servant leadership extends onto community advisories, boards and other opportunities for volunteerism. Akilah is also a 2018 Dallas Public Voices Greenhouse, Op Ed fellow and sought-after public speaker. At home, Akilah is the proud mother to college student and businessman, Jamel and student-athlete, Jayce. Her mantra is: “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard,” a quote from Madame C.J. Walker.

This interview has been minimally edited.

Author: Julia Travers

I often cover innovations in science, the arts and social justice. Find my work with NPR, Discover Magazine, APR and Earth Island Journal, among other publications. My portfolio is at
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One-third of donors directed half their giving to disaster relief | Philanthropy news

Last year, 37 percent of American donors gave half or more of their charitable contributions to disaster relief efforts, and 64 percent gave to a charity they had never supported before, a survey commissioned by Vanguard Charitable finds.

Conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable, the survey of more than 1,300 American donors found that the top reasons American donors gave to disaster relief included wanting to assist those impacted by humanitarian crises (46 percent), feeling overwhelmed by a situation and wanting to help (33 percent), seeing charitable giving as the only way they could provide support (30 percent), and having a personal connection to the disaster/crisis (30 percent). The survey found that donors who contributed to disaster relief efforts gave more overall, meaning that disaster relief giving did not take away from, or occur in place of, ongoing giving. 

“From COVID-19 to a devastating humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, we’ve seen donors respond to disaster relief needs in inspiring and meaningful ways,” said Vanguard Charitable president Rebecca Moffett. “In fact, this data reflects that disaster relief support is an integral part of the giving landscape, often increasing total generosity as donors look to give when and where support is needed most. And because the money in donor-advised funds has already been set aside for charitable purposes, donations from DAFs tend to be more responsive in moments of crisis, and more resilient during moments of economic uncertainty.”

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Drazen Zigic)

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Trust in nonprofits fell slightly last year, survey finds | Philanthropy news

While there is room for U.S. institutions across the board to increase public trust, a majority of respondents believe nonprofits will do what is right for society, a survey conducted by Independent Sector finds. 

Conducted in February in partnership with Edelman Data & Intelligence, the third-annual Trust in Civil Society survey found that 56 percent of Americans said they trust nonprofits, down 3 percentage points from the 2020 benchmark study (59 percent). Trust in philanthropy edged down from 36 percent to 34 percent during the same period. According to the survey, financial well-being and education are major drivers of trust, and trust of nonprofits among women fell during the pandemic.

Given the findings, Independent Sector recommended that nonprofits work to make greater progress to support and strengthen the country, for example by leveraging trust in the social sector to strengthen U.S. democracy, deepening engagement with communities and institutions, and upholding public expectations of government accountability.

“Increasing public trust of institutions and the social sector is a pressing issue for the U.S. We all benefit from strong public trust,” said Independent Sector president and CEO Daniel J. Cardinali. “Trust is the priceless currency for nonprofits, philanthropies, business charity programs, and all of us to build a healthy, equitable society. We see what happens when trust breaks. Our 2022 Independent Sector Trust in Civil Society report elevates important data and recommendations for conversations about how the social sector can engage more deeply and do better so everyone in our country thrives.” 

(Photo credit: Getty Images/SDI Productions)

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Digital, other channels of giving are expanding, study finds | Philanthropy news

Emerging trends in the United Kingdom and Brazil reveal an expansion of digital and other types of channels for giving, including online giving, crowdfunding, charity rounding up, and social impact publishing, a new research series from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI finds.

The research series, Digital for Good: A Global Study on Emerging Ways of Giving, builds on the school’s Global Philanthropy Environment Index and Global Philanthropy Tracker and will be released in phases over the next five months. The first two studies examine philanthropic engagement in Brazil and the UK prior to and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with profiles of China, India, Kenya, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea to follow.

Based on an analysis of three case studies in Brazil, the first profile found that prominent emerging ways of giving include charity rounding up, crowdfunding, and social impact publishing, which involves the production of inspiring, revenue-producing editorial content. Donations collected through rounding up for charity via Arredondar increased from BRL1,091 in 2013 (equivalent to $590 in 2021, adjusted for inflation) to more than BRL1.6 million in 2020 (equivalent to $330,186 in 2021, adjusted for inflation). In addition, the study found that the most successful initiatives prioritized transparency and accountability in giving.

Based on an online survey of nearly 3,000 individuals in the UK, the profile found that prominent expanded methods of giving include online giving and crowdfunding. Among donors interviewed between May and July 2021, 60 percent reported that gifts they had made in the past year had been made online, with the most common way being through a third-party app. In addition, researchers found that 63 percent of people who used social media to request donations also made requests in person.

“The results of the first two country profiles suggest an evolution in giving practices and highlight a significant expansion of digital giving practices and peer-to-peer giving,” said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “While these findings are the first in a series, the documented growth in digital giving and shifting donor expectations in the UK and in Brazil reinforce existing evidence that digital practices can help democratize the practice of philanthropy. Digital innovation makes philanthropy accessible and fosters greater transparency and accountability for how gifts lead to impact.”

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

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