The mention of the word endowment often evokes images of stately universities, art museums, and hospital wings, but rarely is it associated with social change organizations. This is especially true when it comes to organizations led by people of color.

Bridgespan Group analysis of the investment income of 56 social change nonprofits—organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Innocence Project, and the Children’s Defense Fund—found that, on average, the endowments of organizations led by people of color were nearly four times smaller than those of white-led organizations, and their average percentage of revenue was less than half. If social change organizations currently get just a thin slice of the total endowment pie, Black-led nonprofits are getting the crumbs.

It’s time for that to change. Social change leaders can start conversations about endowments by first identifying their most trusted donors. That trust is central, because endowments for social change nonprofits amount to much more than money. They are the purest example of trust-based philanthropy we can think of, representing a transfer of power from donors to doers. Such an act can be transformative for social change organizations, especially Black-led ones.

Although there are huge shifts in donor mindsets and practice needed to encourage endowment giving, the hurdles are not insurmountable. Here are steps social change leaders can take to open the dialogue:

  • First, be prepared and make the askYou don’t get if you don’t ask.
  • Be bold—price with pride. Endowments should be large enough to generate revenue that will make a measurable dent in how you operate, so have a number in mind.
  • Promote your proximity. Elevate your relationship with your community as an asset.
  • Prioritize infrastructure as critical to impact. Reinforce the logic that, just like in the private sector, investing in your staff, systems, and technology will make philanthropic investments go further.
  • End “philanthropic sharecropping.” Too many organizations have relationships with donors who give them just enough funding to get by for the next year but no more. These donors may hesitate to direct large gifts your way as they question your ability to absorb large capital flows. You can push back, because this is where endowments really are magical.
  • Tap into your board’s networks. Think deeply about who board members might know and could connect you to, even if you don’t have the contacts yourself.
  • Think long term. Be able to articulate the following: What is the issue you are trying to tackle going to look like 10 or 20 years from now?

Read the full article about the case for an endowment by William Foster and Darren Isom at The Bridgespan Group.