Never Underestimate the Power of a Network

This is a guest post by by NNCG member Yvonne L. Moore. Principal Philanthropic Advisor of Moore Philanthropy.  This article was reprinted from Philanthropy in Focus, the online newsletter of WINGS Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support, on February  28, 2019.

No successful movement has ever come about without the power of a great network. And when I use the word great I do not mean large in numbers. The origins of a great network usually come about because of a shared vision for a better life, the mental and psychological exhaustion due to injustice, or simply the human need for connection. Whatever the goal or the model chosen, in no way make the mistake of belittling the efficacy and influence of a well-informed and well-connected network.

After 15 years of supporting and advising families on their personal philanthropy I launched my own advisory firm. What I quickly observed after launching is that while my colleagues had a desire to connect with wealthy donors from the African Diaspora I wasn’t always clear that their desire to help was genuine. Now, I’m a business woman. I have no problem in seeking and leveraging my networks to grow my firm. But I come to philanthropy as a calling not an opportunity to exploit. Additionally, many myths continue to overshadow the giving of families from the African Diaspora including those that perpetuate that we are not philanthropic, that we hold no substantial or generational wealth, or that any wealth we do hold, especially for those from the African Continent, was derived from illicit means rendering our philanthropic endeavors illegitimate, or unworthy of living alongside the multi-generational wealth of Western donors.

“[…] Many myths continue to overshadow the giving of families from the African Diaspora including those that perpetuate that we are not philanthropic, that we hold no substantial or generational wealth, or that any wealth we do hold […] was derived from illicit means rendering our philanthropic endeavors illegitimate, or unworthy of living alongside the multi-generational wealth of Western donors.”

In an effort to dispel these myths and to elevate philanthropic advisors from the African Diaspora, in August 2018 Moore Philanthropy launched an initiative focused on building a global network and heightening the visibility of experienced philanthropic advisors from the African Diaspora. The African Diaspora Philanthropic Advisor (ADPA) Network connects, educates and elevates advisors and consultants from the Diaspora charged with guiding, influencing or leading the philanthropic goals of individuals and families. We launched to an enthusiastic response and have already held meetings in New York City, Lagos and Nairobi, as well as connected with colleagues in Denver, CO and Dallas, TX. Over the next 12 months we have meetings planned in Johannesburg, Paris and Jamaica.

While we knew of many disparities going in to this endeavor, I don’t think we knew the depth of the obstacles. Thus far we’ve heard about challenges such as lack of exposure to opportunities, minimal opportunities for donors to learn about qualified advisors, and the most disheartening: the ugly reality of receiving significantly lower fees for doing the exact same work by those with similar, if not more, years of experience than their white counterparts. However, positive realities also quickly revealed themselves. Members are eager to expand their learning or issue expertise, happy to mentor younger colleagues, willing to leverage their unique role in connecting donors and community, and excited about sharing strategies and tips on building one’s business development in their unique context or environment.

“While we knew of many disparities going in to this endeavor, I don’t think we knew the depth of the obstacles.”

As philanthropic support organizations, donors, and partners prepare to gather in Jamaica for a conversation on Driving Philanthropy for the Future I encourage us to think deeply about how networks and partnerships can significantly advance our missions. The scale of the problems we’re facing will take much more than financial resources. It will require money and networks. Challenges such as shifting political and public will likely only be solved with the support of networks, coalitions, collaboration and partnership. I hope that you too come to this work not simply as a job, but as a calling because the challenges we are tackling are global in scale and deeply entrenched.

 

You can read more about Driving Philanthropy for the Future meeting here.

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