New Black and Ethnic Minority community-led foundation backed by major charities

27 Nov 2020 News

A new foundation led by and supporting Black and Ethnic Minority communities is being created and will start its development phase at the beginning of next year.

Baobab Foundation will be “a new type of foundation, led by the communities it serves”, and aim to address the chronic underfunding of community organisations led by people of colour.

The organisation already has more than 40 members, including various major charities, funders and sector groups – among them are NCVO, British Red Cross, Oxfam, Comic Relief, Charities Aid Foundation, National Lottery Community Fund, #CharitySoWhite and London Funders.

Baobab Foundation will be governed by a network of community organisations led by people from ethnic minority communities, which will be making decisions on funding allocations.

It will be co-chaired by David Weaver, a former social worker who is currently chair of the Coalition of Racial Equality Organisations, and Jake Ferguson, chief executive of local infrastructure charity Hackney CVS.

Twelve more members of the steering group have been announced, including NCVO’s chief executive Karl Wilding, writer and philanthropy adviser Derek Bardowell, and Dilhani Wijeyesekera, head of influence at Comic Relief.

Research and development phase to begin in January 

The foundation will start its research and development phase in January 2021. It will last six months and involve a small project team coordinating a collaborative effort to put together a strategy, sign-up a group of founding donors and establish the foundation as a legal entity.

In an article introducing the organisation, Baobab Foundation said it aims to be “long term and sustainable”.

The research team will consider various finance and fundraising options, including endowment, and different ways of providing support, including repayable grants and social investment.

Organisers will hold a series of workshops with local organisations, aimed at helping the foundation establish its strategy and funding priorities. Workshop participants will be paid for their time, and Baobab Foundation hopes to build a 400-strong network this way.

The foundation has received £15,000 from Lankelly Chase, NCVO and East London Business Alliance to carry out its work so far, and is in conversation with 20 corporate donors about different short and long-term giving options. 

In the long-term, Baobab Foundation hopes to be able to compete to distribute funding from the government and other sources, such as corporate foundations. It will also be “sharing learning and encouraging better practice among other funders and policy makers”.

Existing funders struggle to address the issue

Small charities led by people of colour have been underfunded for years. Since the pandemic started, groups including #CharitySoWhite have campaigned for a portion of emergency funds to be ring-fenced for them. But many have said that the sector’s reaction has been too slow and short-term.

Baobab Foundation’s introductory blog says: “Whilst many parts of civil society can reasonably lay claim to problems of being poorly funded, there is longstanding — though often ignored — evidence that Black and Ethnic Minority community organisations are poorly funded and not empowered to be at the forefront of change.

“Many existing funders struggle to address this issue because; their leadership isn’t representative of Black and Ethnic Minority communities; their decision-making processes don’t sufficiently value lived experience; their attempts to address these problems are often extractive and place increased burden on communities; funding is usually short-term; funders claim they don’t have adequate data to understand inequity. 

“Some funders have made progressive moves to work through intermediaries and/or ring-fence funds for Black and Ethnic Minority Community organisations. However, this work is still limited by the factors mentioned above and can only ever be a small, time-limited, part of that funder’s mandate.”

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