Corporate America and Philanthropy Must Deliver on Racial Justice Promises

After George Floyd’s murder, corporations and philanthropy pledged support to fight racial injustice and inequality. Billions were promised, but three years later, they have not fulfilled their commitments.

By Yvonne L. Moore

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police, corporations and philanthropy worldwide promised to join the fight against racial injustice and voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Billions of dollars were pledged to tackle systemic racism and inequality in communities of color.

Three years later, corporate America and philanthropy have yet to deliver on their promises. A recent analysis shows that a staggering 97% of the $49.5 billion promised by the 50 largest corporations to combat racial injustice remains unaccounted for. This amount is only a fraction of the total $200 billion pledged.

Despite these commitments, only some have followed through on their promises. Shockingly, only 8 of the top 50 companies who claimed to support Black Lives Matter have donated to it or related causes. Only 4% of pledged donations were designated to criminal justice and civil rights groups.

Additionally, many of these contributions were self-serving – loans and similar investments lead to profits. Corporations also experience increased revenue and brand recognition from customers eager to support businesses that align with their values. Without accountability, corporations and philanthropy will continue to benefit from their inaction and may never allocate the promised funds.

Corporations and philanthropy owe the community what they promised and must make meaningful and transformative investments that tackle the root causes of racial injustice.

Corporations and philanthropy must examine their policies and procedures that reinforce inequities. As a Black-owned and woman-led philanthropic advisory firm and public charity, Moore Philanthropy works with individuals, families, and organizations in the U.S. and abroad to help changemakers tackle some of the world’s most significant challenges. Here are three steps that corporations and philanthropy can take to correct course and help tackle racial injustice.

Understand the challenges faced by nonprofits serving people of color

Systemic racism perpetuates racial bias in philanthropy, limiting access to resources for businesses and grassroots organizations serving Black and brown communities. Leaders of color receive less grant funding and often have fewer networking opportunities than their white counterparts. Only 10% of all philanthropic dollars in the U.S. went to nonprofits led by people of color over the past 20 years – and only 4% of that amount went to Black and Latino organizations. Additionally, increased awareness of racial justice issues and related news coverage did not lead to substantive support for grassroots organizations. Lack of funding impedes long-term planning, growth, and sustainability for organizations led by people of color.

Eliminate barriers and increase unrestricted funding to nonprofits led by people of color

Grantmaking approaches that ignore historical and structural disparities perpetuate biases, exacerbate inequity, and restrict vital resources for organizations led by people of color. Large institutional funders often ignore grassroots organizations with valuable on-the-ground knowledge and cultural understanding necessary to catalyze change. Moore Philanthropy promotes unrestricted investments to organizations whose leadership and staff reflect the communities served. Our Power Champions Fund invests in organizations led by and benefiting people of color and regions often neglected by philanthropy. 100% of the Fund’s grantees serving Black communities are Black-led, and 100% of Native-serving enterprises have Native leadership. Similarly, the Black Resilience in Colorado Fund supports nonprofits led by and serving Black communities – providing unrestricted grants enabling beneficiaries to withstand current crises and build long-term sustainability.

Implement trust-based philanthropic practices

Moore Philanthropy emphasizes trust-based philanthropy in its approach to investing in social enterprises. With “trust” at the heart of this method, funders are challenged to engage their grantees as partners, with respect and understanding at all levels of the grantmaking process. Funders need to simplify their grant process, model transparency and responsiveness in their behavior with grantees, solicit and act on feedback from partners and the communities they serve, and offer support beyond their checks. A grantmaker we successfully advised in implementing these practices, The Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund, invests primarily in Black populations around the globe that work to build more just and equitable communities.

Corporations and philanthropy must honor their commitments to help fight for racial justice and dismantle systemic racism. As we remember George Flyod on the third anniversary of his murder, we continue to experience increased hate, injustice, and inequality across our country. To turn the tide, corporations, and philanthropy must deliver on their promised investments and tackle the root causes of racial injustice and inequality. Philanthropy must also reimagine its grantmaking approaches to ensure investments sustain organizations leading the charge to dismantle systemic racism and help communities of color thrive – playing their part to help uphold the social contract between people and government.

Yvonne L. Moore is the Founder and Managing Director of Moore Philanthropy, a Black-owned and women-led philanthropic advisory firm and public charity providing thoughtful, strategic, and tailored philanthropic services to individuals, families, and organizations in the U.S. and abroad.