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Will Black Millennials Be The Next Wave Of Philanthropists?

03/06/2013 09:21 am ET

The days of old, rich men dominating the philanthropy space are long gone. And one marketing executive wants to make sure that budding black givers take more of a starring role.

After noticing that few others were pushing young African-Americans to give charity, Ebonie Johnson Cooper, founder of Friends of Ebonie, started her marketing firm in 2009 to serve as a philanthropic resource for black millennials, according to her website. She's now working on ramping up her efforts through her networking and panel events and her blog to redefine the face of philanthropy by pushing black millennials to give more money to causes, the Washington Post reported.

“When we think of philanthropy, we think of old, white and wealthy,” Cooper said at a recent philanthropy event for young black professionals in Washington. D.C., according to the Washington Post. “And none of us in here are that.”

That particular event, called “Defining Young Black Philanthropy,” attracted black people in their 20s and 30s from a host of industries, including government, nonprofits and business, according to the Washington Post.

To be sure, African-Americans as a community have historically been involved in giving charity. Nearly two-thirds of African-American households donate, giving $11 billion each year, according to “Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Color,” a report released by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation last year. They also give away 25 percent more of their income per year than white people do.

“In recent years, the definition of philanthropy has begun to broaden to include a larger swath of human generosity, with any-size contributions not just from the wealthy but from people of every income bracket,” Sterling Speirn, president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, noted in his organization’s study last year.

While black people as a culture are inclined to give charity, the younger generation, according to Cooper, needs more of a push to open their wallets. Other leading activists have recently declared that young African-Americans are an untapped resource when it comes to encouraging charity and volunteerism.

Benjamin Jealous, the chief executive of the NAACP, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy, leading up the Martin Luther King Day of service that it’s important to foment young people, and find out what they’re really passionate about in order to get them involved in social change.

“Listen to them first, find out what they are really angry about, and then say, ‘This is how we turn it outward, and we actually overcome that issue,’” Jealous told the news outlet.

Part of why it may be critical to encourage young black people to give charity is because many organizations that cater to underserved black youth aren’t considered “hot” causes among the most charitable. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School found that donors often associate black teens with being “lazy and irresponsible,” which keeps them from giving their charitable dollars to groups that help young African-Americans, the Root reported.

But such negative stereotypes may be the very thing that inspires black people to take care of people in need within their own communities.

“People in [African-American] communities feel a responsibility to give because they know their people are at risk” New York psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere told the Grio last year when the Kellogg report was released. “For those with more disposable income it becomes a duty to give back, a moral obligation, to support those in need.”

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