How to Build a Corporate Philanthropy Program around Race and Social Equity with Booz Allen, Give Blck, and Benevity
Over the past year, race and social equity has ascended as a top priority, and organizations of all sizes, across industries, have been looking at how they can do better and make change where it’s needed most. What are the best ways to get started, tackle tough conversations, and keep the momentum going in order to provide real growth and opportunity for those who need it most?
Kristin Jarrett, a community and social impact strategist at Booz Allen, considers these questions as part of her role with the firm’s Community Impact and Philanthropy team. Her day-to-day work involves ensuring that race and social equity are a major element of Booz Allen’s corporate philanthropy efforts—a critical component to Booz Allen’s commitment to advancing racial and social equity.
Last summer, Jarrett and her team were instrumental—along with Booz Allen’s African American Network and corporate leadership team—in developing the first-ever employee giving campaign established to support the Black community and historically marginalized populations via partnerships with Equal Justice Initiative, Black Girls CODE Inc., Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Year Up. Over the course of one month, Booz Allen and firm leadership matched employee donations 2-for-1, raising more than half a million dollars for these critical philanthropic partners—a key step in “turning statements into actions.”
To discuss her thoughts, experiences, and advice on how to build an equitable corporate philanthropy program, Jarrett recently joined a virtual discussion—Turning Statements Into Action—with Stephanie Ellis-Smith, co-founder of Give Blck, a database of Black-founded non-profits, and Janelle St. Omer, regional vice president of Benevity, a grant management platform and Booz Allen’s partner in standing up corporate philanthropy programs aimed at race and social equity. Highlights from the discussion follow.
Start by talking—and listening
Employee resource groups, community partnerships, philanthropic campaigns, and other race and social equity initiatives should all start with conversations. “Understand that people are feeling very harmed and hurt and unheard and want change,” Jarrett said.
Panelists suggested that organizations:
Make the space and time for conversations
Provide support, resources, and guidance, especially when conversations can cover difficult subjects and uncharted territory
Start internally—with what employees need and care about
“You can’t show up and try to make change in your community if you haven’t listened and supported people in your own organization,” Jarrett said. “Take care of home first.”
Such an approach will benefit an organization’s corporate social responsibility efforts as well. “When you empower people and make them feel heard and supported, they’re really able to show up and move the needle.”
Partner with purpose
Throughout the webinar, panelists cited the power of collaboration and partnerships in social change. Honest conversations are essential to success here as well.
Internally, determine your intentions. Is your end goal public relations and awareness, or the opportunity to embed within the community? This will determine who you’ll partner with, and how you approach them.
Externally, work backward from what your partner needs. What are their big problems, what issues are they addressing, where do they need help?
Particularly when working with a lean, resource-strapped non-profit, “Approach them with your plan or idea already formulated,” Jarrett said. “Don’t unduly lean on them for work you could do internally yourself. Don’t overburden them unnecessarily.”
Prioritize structure and resources
The topic of race and social equity is broad and can be daunting and overwhelming. To maintain momentum and improve your odds of meaningful impact, panelists recommended:
“Asset mapping” what your organization has to offer against what you hope to accomplish
Getting organizational buy-in and an executive sponsor
Backing up your plan with a budget and resources
Strengthening the plan even more with structure and accountability
If progress is lagging, allies can be a powerful tool in holding people accountable and keeping efforts on track. “This should not be the responsibility of the people that your campaign was built or created for,” Jarrett added.
Be authentic, humble, and helpful
“You are stepping into a place that is very difficult,” Jarrett said. “You have to do your own work.”
This includes uncovering and understanding, learning about the origins of the pain and the history, and teaching yourself to think differently about a topic.
“Understand how you come across, the history of the issue,” Jarrett said. “Adopt a sense of humility and engage in an authentic and helpful way.” Above all, she said, “approach this work as human beings.”