Targeting boys of color is more than just an initiative for Foundation
One look at Detroit’s demographics – 83% of the city is African American – will tell you a brighter future simply depends on young boys of color growing up to be in a better place than their fathers and grandfathers.
And so funding initiatives that target that population is a core strategy here at The Skillman Foundation – and it’s a strategy that’s gaining ground in other philanthropic circles as well.
Earlier this month, The Foundation Center issued a report that looks at how much and what kinds of philanthropic support is geared toward men and boys of color. It’s called “Where do we go from here?” – a riff on Martin Luther King Jr.’s final book title – and The Skillman Foundation’s work was included in its findings.
The good news is that across the country, more and more foundation dollars have been targeted to this cause, from $22 million in 2008 to almost $29 million in 2010. About 40% of those dollars target educational opportunities for black men and boys.
In this survey, 151 different foundations reported that they gave grants explicitly for black males.
Among those respondents, The Skillman Foundation followed only three others in the amount of dollars given. From 2008 to 2010, we granted $5.7 million to boys of color, trailing only the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation and the California Endowment.
Other foundations have chosen to set aside specific grant dollars to go to these programs.
The approach here is a bit different. Here, there’s no black or brown boy initiative.
We instead think about how all of our grant-making decisions impact this population and seek to include them in as many funding opportunities as we can.
“Our goal was not to do something highly specialized around this that would start and go away,” explains Tonya Allen, vice president of program and chief operating officer. “Rather, we wanted to make sure that it was embedded in our grantmaking for the long haul.”
It is now a way of the institutional culture, something program officers think about with every funding request: How would this program or initiative target black and brown boys? If it doesn’t now, is there a way to tweak it so they’re included?
Our grantees are required to show how their programs answer those questions, and those that aren’t solely geared toward girls must show that 50% of those they serve are boys.
Why this focus? Check the stats: Only 47% of boys of color graduate from high school across the nation, versus 78% of the white population.
In Detroit, the number is worse; only 27% of black males graduate here. And across the country, black high school dropouts are 38 times more likely to be incarcerated than peers with a four-year degree.
Those numbers are sad. But they offer a serious challenge – and opportunity – for Detroit.
Think about how big 83% is. How can we expect the city to once again become the dynamic, thriving place so many envision if 83% -- or the male portion of it, anyway – of its population is left behind?
If you want to check out one program that is working to change the odds for these kids, check out the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program.
-- Krista Jahnke is communications officer at The Skillman Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.