Why Us, Why Now

Why Us, Why Now

Welcome to the inaugural Donors of Color Blog! The future we are building together is built first in our collective imagination and we want to create a space where we can share and imagine together. We begin with a blog from one of our Co-Directors, Hali Lee, on where our community finds itself in this historical moment. This space belongs to our entire community and we look forward to also featuring your voices here!  

The story of philanthropy in the United States has not been fully told. Our historic Donors of Color community has the opportunity to re-organize and re-center the philanthropic conversation – together with ALL our communities of color. We are purposefully and strongly standing up with and for each other to combat the forces that have been used to divide us historically.

Donors of color have been largely absent from current donor networks that operate in the U.S., resulting in the development of policies and funding priorities that do not include our important life experiences, resources, and talent. The socio-political moment we are enduring demands that we do this work together, right now. The forces of white nationalism, racism, misogyny, nativism, and venal greed have been unleashed and fed. Wealth inequality is at an all time high, including in communities of color. 

High net worth (HNW) donors of color exist in large numbers, are powerful, and generous. We have found, via our research and organizing, that 14% of all millionaire households in the U.S. are led by a person of color. High net worth donors of color have the interest, means, ability, desire, and skill to invest in systemic change and racial equity. Their life experiences, vision, and leadership are vital in this moment in which the salience of race and racism to every institution and system in the U.S. is glaringly evident. 

We – the Donors of Color Network – have the amazing opportunity to do things differently. We can build the party we want to be at!! We are building a network, in partnership with donors of color themselves, aligned around values that prioritize the concerns and leadership of communities of color. We are building a community that centers joy, love, being in values-aligned and authentic relationships, and power. 


We talk a lot about POWER. As a group of people of color with access to resources, how can we be most powerful together to be most in service to our communities? What are the arenas in which we can be more powerful than the sum of our individual parts? How we do that is up to us. Exciting work exists in the cross-fertilization between many arenas – 501c3 (non-profit), 501c4 (advocacy), private sector, and culture. How can we coordinate, convene, and organize between all these arenas for the betterment of our communities for the long haul?  For example, it would be unwise to confine ourselves to only a c3 arena because c3s are limited in their power to affect our political system. So, in our first year, we have formed a c4. We are actively exploring how we partner with the private sector and investing arenas from year one, as well. Because we know that culture moves faster than politics, we are also thinking about how we, as a POC community, can fund and influence culture workers and narrative creators, (shout out to Favianna Rodriguez, Center for Cultural Power). 


What are the systemic barriers that have kept our communities from building assets and wealth historically? What can we do now – together – to ensure that our communities have equal opportunity and access? We are a learning community that will explore these questions together in national and regional get togethers. We, as a staff, are committed to exploring these questions with each other and with our member community. We know that if we bring our donor members into intimate conversation with genius movement leaders, put them into community with other values-aligned donors who look like them, and surround them with smart staff, we will have a better chance of moving our folks faster along a systems-thinking and systems-changing path.


We are building a community that is changing the face of philanthropy. Our donor members will become donor organizers, moving their peers, friends, and networks to center the priorities of communities of color and to think with a systems frame. We will build upon the strong foundation of a values-aligned, humble, joyous, loving, and learning community, with the knowledge that we are more powerful together than each of us is as an individual. What are the movements we want to build and support? What is the change we want to see in the world and how do we, as a group of HNW donors of color, dream and co-create together to make that change?

We know that our community and the rich relationships being built within it are the fertile ground upon which all our good work will flourish and grow. We are interested in an expansive notion of who our community is. Like the “friends and family” round of investing – if there are few wealthy friends and family for many entrepreneurs of color – can we be that for promising private sector and social sector entrepreneurs? What does it look like to have an expansive idea around capacity and infrastructure building in our communities of color? What does it look like to practice philanthropy in a way that is more reflective of and responsive to our communities? Look for some of our ideas on this subject in future posts 🙂

You, our members and partners, are the strength of this network and the co-creators of all of the vision and impact to come. We want to also welcome your voices into this new blog space. If you have ideas and writing to share here about the community and future we are building together, we look forward to profiling those here in this collective thought space. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Hali Lee, Co-Director

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Love this message and proud to support DOCN. The more we can engage everyday folks in this conversation the farther we will get TOGETHER.

  2. The message, the framework, everything about this is amazing. This is so timely and needed.

  3. Hali, the work you and your colleagues have done, and are doing, to build the DOCN is indispensable. I’m grateful for the blog as a way to stay current, and to send along to others whose work aligns. I’d love to know more about the Center for Cultural Power–that’s a kickass vimeo. Bravo!

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