When people think of “philanthropists,” they often think of celebrities or the ultrawealthy—people with private planes who make million-dollar donations and attend galas. But the truth is that anyone can be a philanthropist. Philanthropists are people who leverage their time, talent, treasure, testimony and ties to make the world a better place.
Research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute shows that women are often leaders in generosity—across all income levels, ages and backgrounds, women give more than men. Black women in particular lead through generosity in ways that aren’t always visible or acknowledged. That’s why the Women’s Philanthropy Institute partnered with Black Philanthropy Month and The Women Invested to Save Earth (WISE) Fund to shine a spotlight on ten incredible Black women philanthropists.
The Black Women Give Back List received nearly 150 nominations, which were reviewed by a selection committee that includes notable Black philanthropists Jocelyn Harmon, Dr. Jacqueline Bouvier Copeland, Yolanda F. Johnson, and A’Lelia Bundles, the great-great granddaughter of the iconic philanthropist and entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker.
The ten stories that emerged demonstrate how Black women across ages, geographies, ethnicities and backgrounds are tapping into their time, expertise, wallets and networks to create the change they want to see.
Without further ado, please meet The Black Women Give Back List.
New York, New York
A scholar and practitioner in the field of racial inequities in philanthropy, Dr. M. Starita Boyce Ansari is the founder of The New 3Rs, Inc., an online curriculum designed to unlock social activism and generosity in young people. Through her research and leadership, Starita is passing on a profound legacy of generosity that she has embodied her entire life.
As the President and CEO of Chicago Foundation for Women and co-founder of the South Side Giving Circle, Felicia Davis is helping to democratize philanthropy and blaze trails for Black women and girls through philanthropy. Felicia regularly devotes her time and talent as a mentor and educator, both formally and informally, to support Chicago’s aspiring leaders.
As the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SME.NG; founder of The Funding Space and Afrigrants Foundation, and the pioneer of The Ebi Fund, Thelma Ekiyor is at the forefront of impact investing in Nigeria and beyond. Through this innovative form of philanthropy, Thelma catalyzes resources for dynamic social entrepreneurs, with a focus on women founders serving disadvantaged communities.
Valaida Fullwood brings her imagination, ideas and creativity to champion Black and community-led philanthropy. She’s the award-winning author of Giving Back, which profiles the stories of Black philanthropists, and a founding member of New Generation of African American Philanthropists, the Charlotte-based giving circle that launched the Giving Back Project.
Brooklyn, New York
Sharlene Kemler brings possibility, opportunity, and access to healing to and for communities of color, centering the wellness of Black women and girls. Through her work at The Loveland Foundation, Sharlene offers free therapy to Black women and girls and gender-expansive individuals. She embodies philanthropic innovation, and generously shares her time and insights. Sharlene Kemler is revolutionizing giving through her consulting firm SK Philanthropy.
Marsha Morgan has contributed her time, talent, wisdom, treasure, testimony, and ties to democratize philanthropy for nearly 20 years, notably through the Birmingham Change Fund and the Community Investment Network, a national network of African American giving circles. Her leadership has inspired thousands to see the power of collective giving.
As the curator and catalyst of the multimedia narrative platform Voice. Vision. Value., Toya Randall creatively champions and celebrates the leadership impact of Black women who are making the field of professional philanthropy more equitable, inclusive and just. She lives and breathes generosity, from her day job at Casey Family Programs to her service on nonprofit boards to informally and frequently offering her support and sponsorship to fellow women leaders.
At age 81, Betty Smith runs EN-RICH-MENT, a free fine arts program serving underserved youth in Canton, Ohio, that she co-founded 9 years ago. As part of this, Betty founded and hosts Canton Idol, and uses resources and connections to help young people identify their gifts, talent and purpose. In Chicago, she also founded a recovery home for women and women with children recovering from drugs and alcohol named Forever Free.
The co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, and founder of Diaspora Rising, Opal Tometi uses her powerful testimony, ties and talents to ensure that race, immigration and gender justice remain at the forefront of global conversations. Every single day, Opal uses her voice and platform to drive resources, support and attention to human rights crises around the world.
Akilah S. Wallace is making the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex more generous through HERitage Giving Fund, the first Black giving circle serving North Texas. For decades, both formally and informally, Akilah has created platforms through her volunteerism that prioritizes Black people, advocacy for racial equity, leadership development, camaraderie and significant investment in Black-led and Black-benefiting social causes.
Congratulations to these inspiring women, and the millions of Black women who lead through generosity every single day. In a world riddled with challenges, the Black Women Give Back List is a call to action for all of us to step up and create the change we want to see.
The Black Women Give Back List was selected by a committee that includes Dr. Jacqueline Bouvier Copeland, A’Lelia Bundles, Yolanda F. Johnson and Jocelyn Harmon.