A Conversation with Bithiah Carter, President of New England Blacks in Philanthropy

Bithiah Carter is the president of New England Blacks in Philanthropy (NEBiP) in Boston, Massachusetts. NEBiP seeks to create a strong black community capable of advocating on its own behalf and identifying the necessary resources to support its vitality. The organization serves black communities throughout New England.

Bithiah spoke with us about NEBiP’s current efforts to inform, reform, and transform the practice of black philanthropy and its impact.


Q:  What are your current efforts to catalyze community giving?

A: Our work is inspired by our mission, which is to inform, reform, and transform the practice of philanthropy. We want to unleash the power of black philanthropy, especially.

We have an initiative called Giving Black that focuses on understanding black philanthropy and creating a framework for what is responsible philanthropy in communities. We hope to use Giving Black as a way to reform the way black donors see themselves in their philanthropic journey and also how mainstream philanthropy sees black donors and grantmakers. Lastly, the initiative makes an effort to include the voices of key black stakeholders and donors not as an add-on but as the center of the work.

We put out a prototype of what we’re doing in a recent report called Giving Black Boston


Q: How did this project get started?

A: This project came about as we were thinking about the purpose of New England Blacks in Philanthropy. We created a strategic plan to figure out how we could really have an impact on some of the larger issues that are at stake in our communities.

For two years, we engaged with community leaders and stakeholders to ask what do you think we should be doing. We realized we needed better information, as we had very little updated information from black researchers about black people. We decided we were going to focus on informing philanthropy through the lens of Black researchers; using our knowledge to reform philanthropy; and ultimately transforming the way that we assess and address issues in black communities.


Q: How do you decide high-priority issues on which to focus?

A: Our report, Giving Black: Boston, allowed us to survey, interview, and lead focus group sessions with more than 350 black people in Boston, Massachusetts, to determine where we should focus our energies.  In addition, we have a great board of directors and advisors who assist NEBiP in not just creating a focus but also an agenda for change. 

For example, in Boston, the #1 issue in the Giving Black report that is plaguing Black communities is that of economic equity and justice.  So, we partnered with Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) to bring its framework of Responsible Philanthropy in Black Communities to empower the community to lead the process on how to best meet the needs of black communities.  In January 2016, we started the work with 30 community leaders. We are in the midst of planning 11 additional meetings -- one each month to decide priorities and complete the framework. 

We feel it is important for NEBiP to not determine the focus but engage and work with community to determine it together.   In 2016, we look forward to creating Giving Black: Connecticut to inform us of where and how to focus our energies in that state.  We know that place and space matters, so one strategy does not work for everyone.  

Therefore, as we seek to serve this six-state region, we are not only listening to our community voices, but acting on it.  We look forward to working with each community within our footprint to assist them in creating a framework of success for black communities.  Our programming for 2016 will be focused on using our Giving Black Series to create a public square for black American voices and bring together our collective voice to create a framework for Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities. 


Q: What would you say is NEBiP’s unique approach to philanthropy?

A:  We want to shift the paradigm on philanthropy in the black community.  Too often the image of black philanthropy is a person who looks like me, usually impoverished and waiting to receive a handout.   It’s a subtle message. However, it’s a message that I have grown up with my entire life and is a message that is prominent today. We want to get out of this space that poverty is the permanent culture and identity for blacks.  We want and have to change that image.  If you look at nebip.org, we have no negative pictures. There are no people in jail, and there are a lot of positive male images.  We take it very seriously to show the assets of black communities and the power of black communities.  Hopefully, this will influence others to take the image of blacks, particularly blacks in philanthropy seriously.


Q: Where can people go to get more information?

A: Go to our website. We have offered our website to people to use to blog and talk about their own philanthropic journey.  We also share information about grantees of NEBIP members there. We want to use the website as a way to share locally and internationally all of the collective work we are doing.