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Greensboro Black philanthropy project — a first in the city — wants to leave a legacy that will last years

Greensboro Black philanthropy project — a first in the city — wants to leave a legacy that will last years

Pile of money American hundred dollar bills (copy)

GREENSBORO — On Thursday, the Black Investment in Greensboro Equity Fund, part of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, unveiled an effort years in the making: the creation of an endowment.

But not just any endowment. One that would use money collected from the Black community and others ... to help the Black community.

That money would go toward issues critical to them.

Health care. The digital divide. Small business development.

And hopes and dreams, too.

It's a novel idea, the first endowment of its kind in Greensboro, and believed to be one of a few across the country.

"This is reframing the narrative for what philanthropy looks like," said Athan Lindsay, the foundation's director of community philanthropy.

The effort has already raised more than $300,000 as of this week with a goal of $3 million.

The Community Foundation, which will oversee management of the funds, announced a $250,000 matching grant Friday morning. The foundation joins another high-profile group, the United Way of Greater Greensboro's African American Leadership Initiative, in specifically targeting Black philanthropy.

In recognizing the wealth and assets that exist within the city's Black community, organizers want to leave a legacy that will benefit African Americans for years. And years.

"Now we are going to have a big vehicle for solutions," said Bishop Adrian Starks during a virtual announcement on Friday with Lindsay, Mae Douglas, a longtime philanthropist, and Walker Sanders, president of The Community Foundation.

Douglas said early on organizers came across likeminded African American leaders and visionaries who had been thinking of what they could do to "advance the Black community."

Thing is, organizers had already been working on an endowment. Then George Floyd's death in Minneapolis launched a sustained movement regarding the lives of Black people and accelerated the timetable.

"This is a moment and time we think is full of possibilities," Douglas said.

Starks said that the Greensboro Equity Fund doesn't want to work in isolation and that it would take partnerships with "friends and supporters."

"We cannot do this alone," he said.

A steering committee is working on the fund's structure and will initially focus on small business development, the digital divide and disparities in health care.

Lindsay, who has an extensive career in the field of philanthropy and has previously worked for the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, said imagination is the only thing limiting how the funds are used.

"This is about African American folks saying, 'We deserve to create our own philanthropic legacies,'" Lindsay explained. "Who's to say that a donor, an African American, decides through strategic philanthropy to leave the money to build a Tanger Center in east Greensboro?"

Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.

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