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Black leadership and Black experiences in the social sector

Aerial over North Carolina Central University in the Spring.

Candid’s Insights team seeks to leverage the data we collect to increase knowledge about the scope, equity, economics, and impact of the social sector. One of our major research initiatives over the last two years has focused on Black experiences and Black leadership. 

We knew we couldn’t do this research alone and have been thrilled to partner with ABFE—an organization with 50-plus years of organizing, advocating, and strategizing on behalf of Black people inside and outside philanthropy. Additionally, we formed an external expert advisory group to help guide our efforts—including Black scholars from academia, grassroots nonprofits, philanthropy, and leadership development. They provide feedback and guidance on research direction and interpretation of analyses to ensure that what we produce is meaningful, additive, and actionable.  

First report: Funding to HBCUs

For our first publication, ABFE and Candid decided to focus on a specific aspect of Black leadership—historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These higher education institutions have played a vital role in educating Black people, developing Black leaders, and addressing inequality in the United States. In May 2023, we released Philanthropy and HBCUs: Foundation funding to historically Black colleges and universities. This was the first comprehensive analysis of private philanthropy to HBCUs.  

With nearly 20 years of data about U.S. foundation grants, our research documented a pattern of disinvestment in HBCUs. From 2002 to 2019, although foundations increased their total giving by 124%, funding to HBCUs declined by 30%.  

Still more striking, we discovered that the average Ivy League school received 178 times more funding than the average HBCU. From 2015, the Ivies received a combined $5.5 billion compared to HBCUs’ $303 million. When compared with higher education institutions that were more similarly situated to HBCUs (by size, geographic region, institution type, etc.) HBCUs were still underfunded. The average HBCU received about two-thirds of what philanthropy paid out to similarly situated schools.  

The report generated a response beyond our expectations. More than 500 media outlets featured the report, including the Associated Press (with 400+ syndications), CBS News, Black Enterprise, BET, USA Today, Inside Higher Ed, Harvard Magazine, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Since its release, the publication has been the most downloaded report in Candid’s collection of social sector research.  

What’s next 

Candid and ABFE have begun our next exploration of Black-led organizations. Multiple reports suggest that Black-led nonprofits are underfunded. But just how pervasive and extreme is this funding gap? And do factors such as board demographics or Black population served play a role? Stay tuned for our report coming out later this year.  

Photo credit: Ryan Herron via gettyimages


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