On March 27, Noah Drezner, Ph.D., will discuss “Queering Philanthropy: Emerging Research on Alumni Giving From and Supporting the LGBTQ Community,” which is part of the Mays Family Institute Diverse Speaker Series.
Drezner’s talk will focus on his research that shows how and why people in the LGBTQ communities engage in philanthropic behaviors, specifically within the context of giving to higher education. His talk will also explore how straight Americans might choose to support queer communities with their giving.
In preparation for his talk, we’re reflecting back on Susan Taylor Batten’s talk—the most recent conversation in the Diverse Speaker Series—about philanthropic leadership on issues of race and equity and her personal journey working in philanthropy.
How did you become involved in working with philanthropy and foundations?
Susan Taylor Batten (STB): I come from a family who all have careers in helping professions, including teaching and nursing. I became a social worker after receiving an MSW from Howard University that eventually led me to a job in public service and policy research with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Then, I was tapped to work for a center in Philadelphia doing back office work for foundations.
I had never heard of philanthropy or foundations as a profession, but I thought philanthropy was a sector that could seed innovation and take risks with resources to figure out ways to support vulnerable families.
After working with one of the center’s clients, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Batten was then asked to work for the foundation and manage some of its community change work, which focused on making neighborhoods safer places to raise children.
After five years working on that initiative, the foundation asked Batten to lead its equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts and to help it formulate and institutionalize its theory of change around addressing racial disparities.
It was while she was at the Anne E. Casey Foundation that she landed a fellowship at the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE).
STB: The year-long fellowship, which still exists today, engages mid-career African-Americans in foundations to support their professional development, career trajectory, and career mobilization.
The fellowship was a 10-person cohort, and you lean on your peers for direction and guidance around addressing issues in your foundation, which then creates a strong connection between fellows and ABFE itself.
When the CEO position opened at ABFE, I saw it as an opportunity to help a number of foundations in the way in which I was helping the Annie E. Casey Foundation address issues of race and equity, while being explicit about the well-being of African-American kids and communities.
Can you touch on ABFE’s role?
STB: Our mission is to promote effective and responsive philanthropy in black communities. Our work focuses on three areas. The first is philanthropic advising. That involves direct consulting and technical assistance to foundations on what we call responsive philanthropy in black communities.
The second is called member and partner services, where we organize black professionals in the field and other funders who have aligned interests.
The third focuses on research and advocacy. We collect data on grantmaking patterns, the extent to which resources are moving to black communities, and the extent to which black professionals have opportunities to lead in this sector.
What are some of the challenges of working in this sector?
STB: We want to ensure that resources flow in effective ways to black communities. That means having real, authentic, and often tough conversations about race and racism. Trying to facilitate change through very large and privileged institutions can have a number of challenges.
On the flip side, what do you like best about working in philanthropy in general and ABFE specifically?
STB: In general, what I like best is what attracted me to the sector. We have the opportunity to seed innovation, to take risks, to think and dream big, and to engage people most impacted by the issues in their neighborhoods and include them in our grantmaking strategies.
With ABFE specifically, it means a lot for me to continue the tradition of this organization that began almost 50 years ago when courageous leaders stood up and said, “we need to organize something on behalf of African-Americans in this sector.”
As a concluding question, what has been the impact of philanthropy and working in this sector on your own life?
STB: I’ve had the opportunity to meet amazing people around the country who, despite the huge challenges they face, do great work for kids and for families. It helps me stay optimistic and reminds me that with the right people on the job and the right support, all things are possible. We can win. We can all win.
How can philanthropy improve the world? What are some of its challenges? Leave a comment below!