Saluting Black Nonprofit Leaders

When it is time to receive an award or public recognition these individuals are showered with praise. But the rest of the time they are busy “fighting a lion with a switch.” These leaders face challenges that most do not see, and some do not believe. Here are just a few.  Many leaders – whether they are executive directors of grassroots organizations or presidents of HBCUs – are working without the level of board support that many white organizations take for granted. They don’t have board members they can call on to launch a new program, fill a deficit, or endow a scholarship fund. The organizations they work for are under-resourced, but that can’t stop their work. They find a way where there is no way. These leaders work for little or no pay: a “good paying” position offers a much lower level of compensation than that of peer organizations.

Here’s a common refrain, often spoken with pride: we do a lot with a little. That’s true. Look at any Black organization and you will see miracles made from next to nothing. Outsiders are in awe – they would never consider taking on the work that is par for the course for Black leaders. These leaders advance services, programs, advocacy, and all forms of Black excellence despite a lack of engagement and involvement on the part of leaders from the larger community. They contend with racism in all its many forms. That includes historic lack of investment and giving which means facilities are not “as nice” as those that serve other communities. What people don’t see is decades of government decisions that “overlooked” – the building and upgrading of Black-serving schools, community centers, swimming pools, senior centers, and more.

There’s also us – well-intentioned, high-minded people, who don’t match our rhetoric with gifts of time and money. We too don’t see those leaders who are looking out for us. Sometimes it’s because of apathy, or images we have of nonprofits that are just that – images that really don’t match reality! We too can be guilty of a double standard – we want our nonprofits and HBCUs to live up to our expectations, but we aren’t supporting them.

If you are a Black nonprofit leader or board member, know that we appreciate you. Your community appreciates you. You are moving mountains every day. You are strong. You are casting a vision for our betterment. You remind us of who we are, where we come from, and how we can soar. We thank you.

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Saluting Black Nonprofit Leaders

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