Black giving cirlces donate to COVID-19 grants, Black Lives Matter
How do Denver’s Black community leaders stay grounded as they push up against formidable forces of white supremacy and a global pandemic? For Tanaka Shipp, she focuses on providing for her community and connecting with her sisters in Denver’s all-Black women’s giving circle.
Shipp and Nneka McPhee are the co-chairs of Sisterhood of Philanthropists Impacting Needs, a group of members who pool individual funds to donate to community organizations. They founded SPIN in 2014 and now have 22 active members. Brandon Bruce and Haroun Cowans are the co-chairs of the all-Black men’s giving circle, Denver African American Philanthropists, founded in 2011 with 35 current members.
Since coronavirus devastated the United States in March, these giving circles have quickly adapted to provide resources for residents hit hard by coronavirus, leading the way for other philanthropic organizations. SPIN partnered with Collaborative Healing Initiative within Communities, where Shipp works as the education coordinator for her day job, to create a community microgrant fund. They started the grant, and within 24 hours, they raised $10,000.
“This is unique to our giving circle,” McPhee said. “We’re both reactive and also strategic and proactive in our grant-making. If there’s an urgent need in the community, we’re going to respond to it … But then it’s also how do we look at how our grants can affect change long-term?”
Over the past three months, they’ve been able to reach over 700 families, provide 10 Black-owned businesses with financial support and save money for more support as the pandemic continues. DAAP also contributed, as well as other philanthropic heavyweights like the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Colorado Health Foundation.
A big part of their success came from existing relationships SPIN had in the community from years of collaboration and support. After members discuss, research and plan, SPIN often donates to organizations connected with young women of color in Denver, McPhee said in an interview with The Denver Post on Wednesday.
For Shipp and McPhee, the emphasis on sisterhood provides a different representation of Black women, focusing on collaboration and community. Shipp emphasized a boots-on-the-ground approach to giving, which also provides Black role models for young people in the city.
“We are connected to the community to the point where we go to the grocery store, and kids know us,” Shipp said.
Members of both SPIN and DAAP donate at least $365 a year, or a dollar a day. By working in a collective, the giving circle can provide funding that individuals wouldn’t be able to contribute.
In the middle of a global reckoning with racism, DAAP has donated again to Black Lives Matter 5280 — the group also gave a grant to the organization last year. Bruce emphasized that it’s important to recognize the work that organizations across the board have done to address police brutality and continue to invest.
Giving Circles create sustained, collective activism that goes deeper for lasting change, Bruce and Cowans said. And as people all over the world grapple with the impacts of racism, both DAAP and SPIN members are checking in on each other and thinking about next steps.
“We’re only 4% of the population here in Colorado, so the circles are small,” Cowans said. “It becomes really natural to check in with them, just bouncing ideas, having mentors.”
Bruce, Cowans and McPhee all grew up in Denver, and they emphasized the impact of leading all-Black organizations and making an impact on their hometown. For Shipp, who moved to Colorado, SPIN allows her to connect with women she respects who respect her, too.
At DAAP, Bruce and Cowans also described the importance of coming together as a Black community in giving circles. And it’s part of a long legacy of Black leadership, in Denver and across the country.
“The Black community has always been philanthropic, though we don’t see it like that,” Bowans said. “Whether it’s the churches we give to, the organizations we give to, but now to bring that together from a group perspective, it’s good to see that community mirrored here with Black men investing in the community.”
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