make sure their financial gift made the biggest impact on those in need.
Since Elam is from New Orleans, she was charged with finding a suitable charity. Her strategy began with calling prospective recipients with a list of questions designed to find out what the organizations were doing with the money they collected.
Elam was most impressed with the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi, affiliates of 100 Black Men of America Inc. “There were children who needed school supplies. We had babies who needed stuff, too, so we were buying formula and diapers for them as well,” says Jonathan C. Augustine, general counsel for 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge.
The group raised $30,000 for each chapter, and GE matched the funds for a total of $60,000 each, to help them continue to buy supplies for impacted families.
Company groups weren’t the only ones to donate large sums of money for hurricane victims. Collectively, African American organizations raised at least $12 million in the first month alone, according to The Chronicle. Black Entertainment Television Inc. and the National Urban League spearheaded the S.O.S. Saving OurSelves Telethon, which raised the bulk of that total.
The fundraising efforts are far from over. “When you look at the devastation and you look at the magnitude of it, the rebuilding efforts along the Gulf are a long-term process,” says NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce S. Gordon. Indeed, Nagin has instituted a Bring New Orleans Back Commission, which is tasked with rebuilding the educational system, reviving the city’s cultural district, enticing business owners to stay in the Big Easy, and preparing the local government for future challenges. A Bring New Orleans Back Fund is in place to collect the necessary contributions.
While New Orleans officials continue to raise money, black political and philanthropic leaders outside of the city are hoping to use Katrina as a lesson in the art of harnessing financial power strategically to create change in the community.
NAVIGATING THE CHARITIES
Robinson, a freelance creative story developer for film and TV, ultimately gave $1,000 to her alma mater, Howard University, because she was impressed that Howard had taken in hundreds of displaced students from Xavier, Dillard, and Southern universities, and she assumed the money would go toward their education. She didn’t learn until after she had donated her money that the funds Howard collected were administered to the American Red Cross.
Before you write that first check, follow your head, not your heart. Here are some additional tips to consider:
Check the organization’s designation. Ask if it has the 501(c)(3) classification, meaning the Internal Revenue Service recognizes it as a qualified charitable entity that can receive tax-deductible donations. You can call the IRS to find out if a charity makes the list or check online at www.irs.gov. Just because an organization says it’s tax-exempt does not mean a donation to it will be tax deductible.
Find out how the organization will use your funds. Even if you’re familiar with an organization, don’t assume it will spend the money the