There is no greater indicator of racial inequity than the gap in wealth between Black and white Americans. From 2010 to 2020, Black full-time workers between the ages of 25 and 34 made an average of $39,820, compared to $52,750 for white workers. Additionally, the total assets of Black households averaged $206,966 compared to white households, whose total average was $1,101,412.
Despite the systemic barriers to building wealth and attaining economic mobility in the U.S., the Black community has consistently embraced a philosophy and habit of giving in monetary and non-monetary ways. Black households give 25% more of their income annually than white households. Nearly two-thirds of African-American households donate to organizations and causes, totaling $11 billion each year.
Perhaps Black philanthropy is a response to the collective understanding of barriers that have existed over centuries, underscored by a deep sense of accountability to and a deep love of community. Even so, most African Americans discount their roles as donors, despite the fact that they may have a life-long history of giving their time, talent, and treasures in many ways.
Acknowledging this, it’s time to shift the narrative about what “counts” as philanthropy and elevate examples of Black wealth-building for a new generation. Below we talk with two Black philanthropists about what philanthropy means to them and why others should give.
Myra Donovan offers strategic guidance in wealth-building and philanthropy
Long-time financial planner and The Denver Foundation board member Myra Donovan came into The Denver Foundation community as a member of the Professional Advisors Council, which helped her learn more about tools she could share with her clients to help them manage their philanthropic giving.
Myra said the main obstacle she ran into was talking with her clients about how to leave money to organizations that would align with their donor intent. She learned that “the foundation could step in and be a doorkeeper for the dollars and provide accountability for planned giving.”
While helping clients with their philanthropic goals, Myra admits she wondered how to help middle America give in the ways best for them. “Most of us feel like we can’t give a whole lot during our lifetimes,” Myra shares. “I’ve been very happy that the foundation has evolved over the years to engage main street folks, helping them make the most impact while alive. Giving circles are one great example,” she adds.
The Denver Foundation has many giving circles and affinity groups, which are ways to connect individuals who donate their money to pooled funds and then decide together which nonprofit organizations or community projects to support.
Myra says, “So many people in our community operate with a scarcity mindset.” That’s why she commits so much time to financial education. “My philosophy has been, let’s start where you are. It’s not about how much you make, it’s what you do with what you make. Allow your money to work as hard as you do.”
To spread this message, Myra has partnered with Walter Huff, a Black realtor, and several others including estate planners and attorneys, like Michelle Adams and Taylor Hunt. Together they conduct financial workshops in Black churches across the Metro region. Topics have included savings, taxes, mortgages, and investments.
The Rodgers: on business success and giving back
After successful corporate careers at General Motors, in Michigan, BJ and Toni Rodgers chose to expand their entrepreneurialism which helped them give to causes important to them. Toni entered the business first, completed a two-year program while working full-time at GM, and became an owner/operator in 2004 when the Rodgers bought their first McDonald’s restaurant. BJ joined her in the business in 2008 with additional Ann Arbor purchases.
In 2015, after considering franchises in several different areas of the county, they bought the three McDonald’s restaurants at Denver International Airport, an investment which has grown exponentially, BJ says. “My wife and I both grew up in giving families and we both share the belief that you can’t be successful unless you help somebody else,”
BJ says. “It is so gratifying to see the impact we have had on people’s lives by giving through The Denver Foundation.” Toni adds, “Both of our mothers were teachers therefore it serves as a constant reminder about the importance of education inspiring our giving to many education-related organizations, including the EspeciallyMe Program, Delta Eta Boulé, The Links Inc, and the United Negro College Fund.”
In addition to education, The Rodgers support several other causes and many organizations, including Cleo Parker Robinson and The Center for African American Health. Their donor-advised fund at The Denver Foundation helps them manage and track their contributions giving them more time to successfully operate their businesses and give back through volunteerism and board service.
To learn more about how we can help you optimize your philanthropic impact, contact a member of the Engaged Philanthropy Team by calling 303.300.1790, or emailing email@example.com.
To learn more about giving circles, visit denverfoundation.org/donor-services/collective-giving.