Black-led and Black-serving organizations are expected to get a boost this week in the runup to Juneteenth as the Give Black campaign returns in its third year.
Organized byKansas City GIFT (Generating Income For Tomorrow) and BeGreat Together, the campaign runs June 13-18 with a goal to raise $500,000. New this year: Give Black also is working in partnership with the United Way.
“We do this every year because the problems facing Kansas City — specifically Kansas City’s east side — are multifaceted,” said Brandon Calloway, co-founder and CEO of GIFT. “The people that are closest to the problem are often closest to the solution. And Black-led nonprofits, even though we’re often close to the problem and closer to the solution, we are historically underfunded.”
With his work in nonprofits and fundraising, Calloway has seen first-hand the lack of investment in these organizations, he said.
“Black-led nonprofits do not get funded to the same level that non-Black-led nonprofits get funded to,” he added. “These organizations are often the ones that are doing direct impact work (and) that are making the change. So their ability to do good is limited by their ability to bring in funds.”
This year’s fundraising campaign will benefit five Black-led organizations: The Future of Us, MOS (Mastery of Self), SWAGG INC (Serve Witness And Give Guidance, Inspiration Never Ceases), GIFT, and BeGreat Together. Each serves the Black community, either in areas of education, mental health, crime reduction, income, or employment.
“By bringing together all of these organizations that do many different things to uplift the Black community and specifically the area of the city that needs it most, we’re trying to make a big collective dent and provide a flourishing East Side,” Calloway explained.
Leaders of the organizations planned to promote the campaign this week through the news and social media. A donor banquet is set for June 16 at the Shield Club event space at Children’s Mercy Park to shine a spotlight on the organizations and the work they are doing.
“It’s an opportunity to really have a collective of voices around a breadth of issues that Black communities face day to day,” said Avrell Stokes, executive director of BeGreat Together.
Click here to donate to the Give Black campaign or text “giveblackkc” to 44-321.
“We want to take the power into our own hands and make an appeal to the people in Kansas City who want to see actual, tangible change happen,” Calloway said.
In the first year of the campaign, Give Black raised $15,000 in one day. In 2021, organizers expanded it to a full week and raised $125,000. They are hoping to top $500,000 this year.
“The last couple of years have been pretty successful and we hope to repeat that success,” Calloway added.
Click here to read more about Kansas City startup C2FO’s 2021 Juneteenth donation and how it impacted Kansas City GIFT.
In the wake of social unrest in 2020, a push to support organizations benefiting or run from within the Black community went mainstream, Calloway said, but the urgency is now gone.
“When George Floyd happened and the whole country was talking about racial equity, there was a large uptick in support of Black businesses, a large uptick and support in Black-led nonprofits, specifically among individuals,” he explained. “That level has not been sustained [among individual donors], but it is higher than it was before.”
Conversations with grant-making foundations continue, Calloway said, but action is slow and minimal.
And corporations, they’ve completely moved on, he continued.
“I feel like the best approach, and honestly, the most efficient and most powerful approach is individuals,” Calloway said. “Individually, there’s over a half a million people in the city. And so, if everybody in the city came together to support most of the causes, we would really be able to make a lot of impact and do a lot of good for the city.”
Organizations benefiting from Give Black KC
Grants fromKansas City GIFT to businesses on the East Side are intended to grow the ventures and bring jobs to the urban core, Calloway said.
“So that we can bring the jobs to the people that need them the most and expand Black businesses to also make a dent in the racial wealth gap,” he added.
To aid with the success of these business owners, GIFT also opened a state-of-the-art business center that provides co-working space, a photography studio, and financial, legal, and marketing advice.
Click here to learn more about GIFT’s business center, which opened in March on Prospect Avenue.
BeGreat Together, according to Stokes, focuses on education, environment, economics, and exposure for student programs at K-12 public schools with 80 percent minority enrollment.
Black- and Latino-led organizations, he said, often lack the networking and promotion they need to grow.
“We want to see grassroots leaders grow their support, grow in who they know, and we want youth to be what they can see,” he added.
After his own experience with incarceration, Na’im Al-Amin, founder and CEO of SWAGG INC, saw the need for a nonprofit with a new business model, he said. SWAGG INC has two approaches: never go in and never go back. For the first, it partners with Kansas City Public Schools to develop programs that create barriers to incarceration for young people.
For the second part, he said, it’s all about entrepreneurship.
“We promote ownership for people impacted by mass incarceration,” he explained. “We do that by developing returning citizens through education, employment, etiquette, and entrepreneurship.”
The Future of Us provides scholarships to high school students in underfunded and underacknowledged areas, largely in the KCMO and KCK public schools, described Brenan Latimer, co-founder and CEO.
“We do that by eliminating discriminatory metrics, such as GPA or standardized test scores,” he said. “The metrics in nature aren’t discriminatory, but they’re often used as such when the playing field isn’t level, so those metrics don’t translate.”
Torey Crawford, co-founder and vice president of MOS, was inspired to start the nonprofit after spending 18 years in the U.S. Army and experiencing the difficulties of transitioning from military to civilian life.
“So we looked at creating MOS, which is Mastery of Self,” he explained. “But for military, we know it as Military Occupational Specialty. And when you’re in the military, that’s your identity. But once you leave, you lose that identity. So we’re rebranding that identity as Mastery of Self.”
One of the focuses of MOS: employment for veterans.
“Employment is the pathway out of poverty and necessary for social improvement,” he added. “And MOS is determined to provide that.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.