America’s Leading Black Philanthropists

From education to health, African Americans pump billions into charities and causes, fueling their clout and mission to change the world

for Excellence and a $1,000 check. The 89-year-old benefactor created the scholarship five years ago with a little more than $5,000 in seed money. Recipients are chosen based on courage, commitment to the arts, and enthusiasm to share it with the community. “The arts belong to the community. It takes a skilled person not only to share their talent but their willingness to show how the arts can improve life,” says Armstrong, former music teacher and cultural arts coordinator for the city’s public school system.

Reginald Van Lee is a patron of the arts and an avid collector. “I want others to be able to experience quality African American art. I also want evolving and emerging artists to have a place to show their work,” says the senior vice president with New York-based Booz Allen Hamilton. Van Lee is also treasurer of the board of directors for The Studio Museum in Harlem. Early on in his career, Van Lee helped stuff envelopes for the Dance Theatre of Harlem. But as his status grew, “I stepped up to writing checks to hosting events to doing fund raising to sitting on the boards of nonprofits.” Today, he supports the museum and various performing arts venues through charitable donations, which add up to about 10% of his annual income.

A charitable gift can be cash; real estate; stocks; income from trust funds; and personal belongings, including artwork, jewelry, or a used car. Powell says some giving strategies depend upon what the organization has in place—for instance a charitable gift annuity program—or whether it has policies for accepting non-cash gifts, such as real estate and appreciated securities. The United Negro College Fund is a national organization with systematic giving programs. Another is Associated Black Charities, which organizes donor funds and workplace giving through payroll deduction.

Other giving strategies include making a bequest, leaving a stated amount of assets to a charity in your will; making the organization the beneficiary of a life insurance policy; and/or setting up a charitable trust. It is important that you work with professionals—financial, tax, and legal advisers—to help make an informed decision about what strategy is best for you, “in that it not only incorporates your values and your motivations for giving, but also so that you understand any relevant invest ment, tax, and estate planning considerations,” adds Powell, who sits on the board of the Gift Planning Council of New Jersey and is a member of the National Center for Black Philanthropy (see sidebar for other giving strategies).

BLACK PHILANTHROPY BEARS MANY FRUITS
The new millennium has borne witness to a greater number of celebrities and professionals creating private foundations and pledging large sums to their favorite charities. It’s clear that as African Americans are coming into more wealth. Their gifts are getting larger, says Emmett Carson, president and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation. Black celebrities and private citizens are also becoming more global by associating their names and dollars with education, AIDS, and genocide in Africa.

Carson believes black donors are more

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