To fully appreciate NBUF’s future opportunities, it is important to understand its past. In 1968, a group of Black American activists, led by Walter Bremond who worked as a Program Officer for Cummins Engine Foundation, created the Brotherhood Crusade in Los Angeles, California. The purpose of the new organization was to promote charitable fundraising in the black community for black empowerment and social change. Inspired by the civil rights and social change movements of the era, the mission of the Brotherhood Crusade was to create a systematic and strategic model for black fund-raising and self-help. The Brotherhood built on the long history of giving to charitable causes inherent to the history of survival in the Black American community.
How Things Got Started
In 1972, leaders of the Brotherhood Crusade recognized the need for a national organization that could lead to the establishment of a network of efforts around the country. NBUF was incorporated that same year, and with grant support from Cummins Engine Foundation, immediately established affiliate organizations in Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles and Fort Worth.
During the 1970s the local affiliates raised money for Black American Americans, fulfilling NBUF’s philosophy of self-sufficiency and self-help for the Black American community. NBUF filled a major gap left by traditional mainstream funding sources which invested less than 2% of their resources with organizations led by Black Americans.
In its initial stage of development, NBUF relied primarily on foundation support and payroll deduction as a means to support the work of the organization.
At the time, accessing workplace giving was an appropriate strategy since most Black American income came from salaries. NBUF recognized that the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), which accessed potential Black American contributors, could provide a stable and reliable source of revenue for the organization and the work of its affiliates. NBUF was denied entrance to the CFC campaign twice.
A landmark Legal Victory: Opening the Market
In 1976, NBUF legally challenged the CFC based on the premise that United Way’s sole access to the CFC did not provide fair and equitable access to all similarly situated organizations. In 1980, NBUF secured the legal right to enter the CFC campaign. This breakthrough allowed a myriad of ethnic and other “alternative” charitable organizations to benefit. With this step, NBUF positioned itself as a major catalyst and anchor in the movement to diversify philanthropy and charitable giving.
This commitment to diversifying philanthropy is the impetus that propels NBUF as it enters the 21st century. Today NBUF stands as a national fundraising model that raises money primarily from Black American Americans and redistributes it through its affiliate network to address the needs of the Black American community.
The New Jersey based National Black United Fund is the nation’s only network of independent Black American philanthropic organizations. With its twenty affiliates, more than forty-five member organizations of the National Black United Federation of Charities, and twelve regional federations, it has matured into a significant charitable network devoted to promoting and expanding Black American philanthropy by building community capacity and expanding wealth.
Getting Things Done
The more recent accomplishments of NBUF reflect its mission of support to the development and advancement of the Black American community:
- In 1991, NBUF organized the National Black United Federation of Charities (NBUFC), a new fund raising organization through which Black American non-profit organizations come together as a collaborative fund raising entity.
- In 2000, NBUF and its affiliates raised and donated over $61/2 million dollars.
- NBUFC raises over $1.5 million dollars annually.
Fully grounded by a commitment to local community action and recognizing the need to provide and sustain long term funding, NBUF is positioned to influence the diversification of mainstream philanthropy.
Planning for the Future
In 1998, NBUF began a two-year strategic planning process designed to transform the organization and better position it to support new funding strategies. At the heart of its strategic plan is a shift in focus from fundraising to fund development which draws from a wider range of Black American donors and leverages the giving potential of a growing Black American middle class.
As a result of this new vision, NBUF, once again, is poised to reform traditional philanthropic trends and practices to the benefit of the Black American community.
Sharpening the Vision to Meet New Challenges
NBUF has enjoyed considerable success in realizing its inaugural vision of creating local philanthropic funding vehicles to provide financial and technical support to non-profit community programs. Its successful funding strategy, the solicitation of contributions through workplace giving campaigns, has been a source of revenue to provide grant assistance to local community organizations and contribute to affiliate operating costs. However, developing a diversified Black American donor base is essential to the future growth and development of NBUF as a national funding resource, and to the mission of expanding philanthropic activity within Black America.
Shifts in the Marketplace
The corporate restructuring of workplace campaigns and the increased centralization of corporate philanthropic decision-making has stretched federated campaign dollars, and has made expansion into corporate campaigns difficult and uncertain. The result has been a decrease in workplace giving at the same time that there is an increased demand for non-profit organizations to meet growing needs with higher levels of effectiveness.
Over the last 20 years, there has been an effort by several prominent foundations to support the economic infrastructure of Black American institutions, particularly in the area of education. Prominent foundations such as the Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Lilly Endowment, Bush Foundation, and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation have donated significant amounts to encourage Black American philanthropic initiatives. However, financial support of Black American organizations by the mainstream philanthropic sector has historically been limited compared to their representation in the population. In 1997, fewer than 8 percent of foundation grants went to programs that targeted giving to minorities.
Disparities in Funding
Black Americans continue to receive a disproportionately small amount of money from corporate philanthropic sources. A 1993 study of corporate giving conducted by the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) reports that programs that directly benefited Black Americans received approximately 6% of the total money allocated from the corporate philanthropic sector. A glimpse of the State of Black America demonstrates that more is needed to support the efforts of organizations devoted to promoting economic development and self-sufficiency in the Black American community. NBUF’s Trust for the Future targets the need to narrow the gap in resources available to the Black American community for philanthropic purposes.
The success of the 21st century vision of the National Black United Fund will be the reformation, expansion and diversification of philanthropic giving to financially support programs to restore Black American communities. The realization of this vision requires a strong, national philanthropic infrastructure capable of building a donor base, soliciting funds and enhancing local affiliate capacity across the country.
Leveraging the NBUF Assets
Despite the growing success of NBUF’s affiliates, many important and worthy programs are still without sufficient financial support. More importantly, too many affiliates are fragile organizations with limited capacity. To be successful, NBUF must address the capacity issue. NBUF must expand its fund development capacity in order to support the philanthropic movement it has spawned.
The NBUF vision for the future builds on its national network of Black American philanthropic organizations dedicated to promoting community-based philanthropy, and continues its embryonic success in mainstream philanthropy by expanding its current workplace giving strategy and transitioning to more permanent and self-sustaining models of funding.
The NBUF goal is to bring new philanthropic dollars into local Black American communities by educating and securing the commitment of individuals who understand charitable giving, but who historically have not participated in organized giving programs. In order to reach that goal, NBUF has developed new vision to leverage its past success and transform to a more viable funding resource for the entire Black American community. The success of this strategy, however, is dependent upon the strategic and planned giving of the Black American community and support from mainstream philanthropic institutions.