In its second fiscal year, the Kansas City-based nonprofit Generating Income For Future Generations (G.I.F.T) has more than doubled its grant amount for Black-owned businesses — but there’s no hidden secret to that success, said Brandon Calloway.
“We simply acknowledged this big elephant in the room that everybody already knew existed and created a path that allows people to have a personal impact,” said Brandon Calloway, CEO and co-founder of the crowd-sourced grant-giving organization. “G.I.F.T. gives people a tangible outlet to address the racial wealth gap.”
The nonprofit organization launched in May 2020 with a mission to support Black-owned businesses in low-income areas. It does so through community-backed grants that generate sustainability and creation of Black businesses. G.I.F.T. awards to monthly grants to small business owners, with the grants ranging anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000.
Click here to apply for a grant from GIFT — or to donate to the organization.
“Before, one person could feel like the problem is just too big for them to make a change about it,” he added. “But then we showed that if individuals signed up to donate $10 a month, it can create this tangible path of action.”
Kansas City G.I.F.T. recently released its annual report, which noted $460,000 allocated to 21 individual Black-owned businesses in Fiscal Year 2. Combined with Fiscal Year 1, G.I.F.T. has given out a total of $687,000 to 35 different Black-owned businesses — resulting in the creation of 58 new jobs and an average growth in quarterly revenue of 304.7 percent in its first two years of operation, according to the report.
“This shows that the program is working,” Calloway said. “When we put out that Year 1 annual report and showed all the data, we were able to get more people on board for Year 2. They saw that we were doing what we said we were going to do.”
In its second year, G.I.F.T. organized its annual Give Black KC Fundraiser during the week of Juneteenth. The team raised more than $125,000 in a collaborative fundraising effort with seven other Black-led organizations: The Greenline Initiative, The Nia Project, Urban Hub KC, We Code, Raytown Reap, Soulcentricitea and Life’s Work C&C.
Along with creating a simple solution for giving, G.I.F.T. addresses the racial wealth gap by speaking directly to the entrepreneurs and communities it is aiming to serve, Calloway noted.
“Too many non-profit programs are created in rooms that don’t contain any of the people who are going to use their services,” he explained. “We made sure our program was built off direct feedback. Our grant size [which is between $10,000 to $50,000] was decided based on surveys. Our business coaching, accounting, marketing, legal and technical assistance services were all based on feedback from small business owners and what they need.”
In March, G.I.F.T. opened a business center on Kansas City’s historically under-resourced East Side — a decision that originated from community feedback, Calloway said. Within the business center’s first 45 days, the G.I.F.T. team had 201 appointments books for technical assistance, with a majority being for business coaching.
“The point of entry is always business coaching because from there we can let them know if they need to meet with legal or banking or marketing,” Calloway said. “Through business coaching, we are able to help them find structure in their business and identify what they would like to achieve. Sometimes the hard answer is that they shouldn’t go into the business at all.”
Click here to read more about G.I.F.T.’s Business Center, which first welcomed entrepreneurs this spring.
After opening the center in the former Blue Hills Community Services building, Calloway and his team surveyed their network of small business owners to determine whether the grant money or business coaching was more helpful.
“They always say both. Both are equally beneficial,” he recalled. “The money allows them to execute the plan; the technical assistance allows them to do it smoothly and overcome roadblocks that come along the way.”
Providing business education, in turn, makes G.I.F.T.’s grant applications stronger, Calloway continued. With a pipeline of worthy G.I.F.T. applicants, the nonprofit can use that data to help with fundraising and continue combating racial wealth inequality.
The business center has been open for less than six months, but Calloway is already looking at how to extend its hours beyond a typical 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. Monday-through-Friday week.
“We’re working to see how we can expand our hours to nights and weekends because that is some feedback we’ve gotten already,” he said. “There’s a subset of entrepreneurs who we are not able to serve because they have other jobs or responsibilities during our hours. But first, we need to be able to manage the high capacity and demand that we get for regular daytime hours before we can figure out another demand.”
On the fourth Saturday of each month, G.I.F.T. hosts a Black business pop-up market — now at its business center. Vendors showcase their businesses for free and are provided with tables to set up shop, Calloway said.
“We asked, ‘How do we help more businesses other than grants?’ And driving traffic to this Black business market was one way to do so,” Calloway said. “We can help businesses generate sales, as well as build a customer base.”
The pop-up market has provided a platform to 192 product-based businesses and has generated between $60,000 and $70,000 in sales since launching in October 2021, Calloway noted.
“Everything that we are doing is working toward making a dent in the racial wealth gap,” Calloway shared. “If we really want to do that, we have to grow and be bigger than our current numbers. We’re using these first two years to prove our validity to drive more funding, so that we can become sustainable and grow to a level where we are making a bigger impact — that’s what Year 3 is all about.”
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.