In this new Q&A series, we’re chatting with inspiring individuals who are innovating ways to make a difference in the world. Meet Tracey Webb, founder of Black Benefactors (BB), a giving circle comprised of individuals, businesses and organizations dedicated to addressing the societal ills facing the African American community in the DC region.
The mission of Black Benefactors is to enhance the well-being of Black children, youth and families by encouraging philanthropy, community service and advocacy. They provide grants and in-kind support to organizations serving African American children, youth and families in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Please tell us a bit about your history prior to founding Black Benefactors. How did your experiences prepare you for this journey?
I come from a family of givers, which led me into a career in public service. While working in the non-profit sector, I experienced firsthand the challenges that grassroots organizations are faced with building their capacity. After a few years of working in grant-making, I soon realized that these challenges are pronounced among black-led nonprofits. I’ve been in their shoes and I know what it feels like to struggle with fundraising, board development, getting on a funder’s radar, and, just staying afloat. These experiences ignited the spark to create Black Benefactors (BB). Ten years later, I’m proud that we have been the first funder for some of our grantees and we’ve built lasting relationships with them.
Having a group of individuals that believe in you, and is willing to financially invest in you – especially from your own culture and community – is impactful.
What are you hoping to achieve through your work with Black Benefactors?
I want to increase funding, resources and awareness to dynamic black-led organizations, and to inspire and cultivate black donors.
Our giving circle members have increased their individual giving to their alma maters, our grantee partners, and to the local nonprofit community as a result of their experience with us. A member shared with me that her participation in our giving circle inspired her to make a major donation of $5,000 to her favorite charity.
What inspires you and keeps you motivated to do this work?
BB members inspire and keep me motivated. Many have been members since day one. Without their support, BB wouldn’t be where it is today. We’re more than a giving circle, we’re a family.
Our grantees motivate me. Their feedback on how BB has been critical to their sustainability is amazing.
I’m also inspired by black philanthropists, many who are not well known, that have made significant investments in the black community and have changed the face of philanthropy. I was proud to share their stories in BlackGivesBack.com, a blog on black philanthropy that I created and ran from 2007-2015.
What are some of the greatest challenges you have had to face on this journey?
When I talk to people who want to start a giving circle, I always share the challenges I faced, and continue to face, so they won’t repeat my mistakes! The greatest challenge I have to face is the perception that giving circles aren’t impactful.
What advice would you give to people who are eager to make a positive impact on the world but don’t know where to begin, or have limited resources?
Begin by asking yourself: What am I passionate about? What life experiences have I experienced that I want to positively impact? What are the pressing concerns facing my community? Once you have identified an issue important to you, consider the 4 T’s to get started: Time, Talent, Treasure and Testimony.
- Time: Volunteer your time to your favorite charity.
- Talent: What expertise do you have? Event planning? Communications? Graphic design? Offer your skills in-kind.
- Treasure: If you have limited resources, ask your favorite charity if they have a wish list. Usually there are items that are affordable. For example, a woman’s shelter may have a need for hygiene products or an after school program needs school supplies. You can also use your birthday or another life event to raise funds from friends and family to donate a larger gift.
- Testimony: Use your voice – protest, advocate, testify, write an op-ed or blog post to generate awareness about an issue important to you.