Penn GSE Researcher Explores African-American Family Foundations, Philanthropic-Giving Strategies

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto-Haines | jdisanto@upenn.edu | April 27, 2010

PHILADELPHIA — Marybeth Gasman, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, has completed the first exploratory study into understanding the world of African-American family foundations, which is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Non-Profit Management and Leadership this summer.

In “A Growing Tradition? Examining the African-American Family Foundation,” Gasman reports that most foundations focus their resources in one of three key areas: public need, education and health.

African-Americans give nearly 25% of their charitable donations to organizations that serve the public need, like after-school programs; 15% to scholarships and educational institutions, including historically black colleges and universities; and 13% to health-related causes, such as treating sickle cell anemia and social-service programs related to HIV/AIDS and breast cancer, the study found.

After tracing their development, Gasman reported that these organizations have a long history rooted in cultural traditions of community support.

“African-Americas are more inclined to start their own foundations rather than setting up donor-advised funds with community foundations. They’d much rather control their own assets,” Gasman said. “This desire to control their assets stems from a sense of mistrust based on their experience with banks, insurance companies and other institutions in the past.”

This comprehensive research study determined that most African-American family foundations were established by one of five groups -- professional athletes, musicians, actors and actresses, doctors or business owners –- and that these foundations are located in areas with large black populations, including California, New York, Georgia, Illinois, Florida and Texas.

“A Growing Tradition” highlights three main reasons for creating these foundations: a desire to give back, the longing to have significant impact, and an obligation to help disadvantaged children, particularly in the areas of education, health, personal development and life-skills training.

“African-Americans who establish family foundations are not unlike their counterparts in the majority population,” Gasman said. “What sets them apart is the desire to give back and ’uplift’ those in their communities, to ‘reach back and pull up’ those around them.”

Gasman evaluated more than 100 African-American family foundations through open-ended surveys, IRS 990 tax forms and online resources, such as GuideStar and Charity Navigator.

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