An Affinity for Philanthropy - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Ulysses Kilgore speaking to the media at the press event 10/21/0

Ulysses Kilgore III, president of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center in Brooklyn, New York, received $250,000 from the GE Foundation. (Source: GE)

The practice of large corporations using employee resource groups, also known as affinity groups, to penetrate ethnic markets is nothing new. Besides providing a framework of social support within the company around race, gender, or any number of social constituencies, multinational companies are well aware of how these groups affect the bottom line.

More recently affinity groups are asking their employers to return that favor by investing in the communities that they represent.

“The resource group offers not only internal support for the companies, but they provide that linkage to the external community where most philanthropy is targeted,” says William Wells, owner of W. Wells & Associates L.L.C. and the national chair of the National Black MBA Association.

For example, this week the General Electric Foundation launched Developing Health, a three-year, $25 million aid program which aims to increase access to primary care at underserved health centers in the United States by providing GE Foundation grants and employee volunteers. This philanthropic effort is spearheaded by GE’s corporate diversity council, which is comprised of several affinity groups and employee networks.

“We feel strongly that the access to quality healthcare is an issue that affects our community disproportionately,” says Deborah Elam, vice president and chief diversity officer at GE. “This is a way that enables us to help that issue by working with community health centers that are really on the frontline.”

Four health centers in New York City will share a $1 million grant. The program will be tested and expanded into other cities that have large GE employee populations.

“It’s coming at a great time,” says Ulysses Kilgore III, president of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center in Brooklyn, New York, which saw 61,000 patient visits last year. He plans to use the money to treat patients with chronic diseases by stressing good nutrition and exercise through healthy cooking and dance classes.

Developing Health is an offshoot of the Developing Health Globally program, which was launched in 2004 by the African American affinity group to help improve healthcare delivery at hospitals in Ghana.

Wells also credits work done by General Mill’s employee network, the Black Champions, which created Feeding Dreams, a program that awards money and recognition to volunteers in African American communities. Though on a smaller scale then GE, the Black Champions is also an example of how companies can extend their reach beyond just selling products and services, make a better connection to those who they are trying to serve, and provide fulfilling experiences for employees.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.