Investing in Akron

Christine Mayer \
November 30, 2022

In the world of grant-making, there are acknowledged and hidden realities behind the numbers that foundations should consider addressing. For example, it is well established that in many instances, Black-led organizations find themselves on a long, winding road while trying to establish their reputation, build their capacity, and scale up their efforts. By contrast, we can point to many instances of white-led organizations that raise larger dollars earlier in their history, enabling them to deliver results sooner and subsequently raise even more dollars. These experiences mirror one another — with connections, capacity, and scale eluding some Black-led organizations, and success begetting success for some dominant organizations.

Over the course of the past few years, our staff has intentionally focused more on deepening our understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion and how we can more holistically live out our DEI values through the Foundation’s work. Some of you may recall our Musings on our DEI Journey.  As part of our learning process, we examined our portfolio of grantees to assess our support of Black-led organizations. 

Candidly, we were not proud of what we found. 

One of the most obvious ways to address this inequity is to provide additional support to Black-led organizations. We could commit to investing in promising, early-stage Black-led organizations with the same gusto that has historically been reserved for “traditional,” established organizations. Thus, the concept of the Black Leaders Cohort experiment was born.

Through the Black Leaders Cohort, we are making three kinds of investment in four vital, Black-led organizations to:

  • Provide professional consulting support to help them establish sound fundamentals and prepare for growth 
  • Offer a learning and support community to them through professionally enriching activities for all four leaders 
  • Give some flexible dollars for each organization to use as their needs dictate

Our trial run of the Black Leaders Cohort consists of Love Akron and its leader Kemp Boyd; Harmony House and its leader Karla McDay; The Collective and its leader Dominic Moore-Dunson; and L.I.N.K.S. Community and Family Services and its leader Yolanda Parker. We believe their organizations and leadership impact Akron in ways that make it stronger, smarter, and more vibrant.

We hope to learn more about ways we can fund more purposefully with equity and inclusivity. 

We hope you’ll join us.