The deep wounds of systemic racism have plagued communities across this country for generations, and in 2020, the largest response in this nation’s history made it explicitly clear that we cannot wait a minute longer to address this deep-rooted issue. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others prompted protests across the country, demanding justice and a fundamental change in how Black and Brown people are treated. To start, many called for a reallocation of public funds to better serve and support communities of color. While this year has marked a turning point in the fight against racism, it’s important to recognize the work Black philanthropists and social activists have undertaken for decades.
Denver African American Philanthropists (DAAP) was founded in 2011 by 26 African American men looking to elevate philanthropy in communities of color in the Denver Metro area. Their vision has been to stand at the forefront of giving and provide an avenue for Black men to be on the supply side of philanthropy. Currently 22 members strong, DAAP focuses its work on the four T’s: Time, talent, treasure (or funds) and testimony, in which they elevate stories of Black giving in communities across the country.
Hosted at The Denver Foundation, DAAP has had an immense impact on the African American community in Denver by providing ongoing financial support to small, lesser-known nonprofits doing crucial work. The giving circle holds grant competitions twice a year focusing on specific areas, such as criminal justice reform, health care, and Black business. These grants provide critical funding for nonprofits, and are segmented by organizational size and scope to ensure fairness in distribution. Past grant recipients include the National Black Child Development Institute —Denver and Second Chance Center, Incorporated, an organization that connects formerly incarcerated men and women with the resources to rebuild their lives after release. DAAP also partners with investment networks to match the funds they give to their grantees to scale up their impact.
Brandon Bruce, DAAP co-chair, recognizes this work is needed now more than ever, as African American communities are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the group created a $25,000 grant to address the needs and concerns of the Denver African American community due to COVID-19. They announced their grantees in August, which included Black Lives Matter 5280, The Center for African-American Health, and Project VOYCE. “We felt that it was incumbent upon us to make sure that we did all that we could to help our small businesses, as well as individuals during this difficult time,” said Bruce.
One of the most important lessons DAAP members have learned since they began their giving circle is to “stay the course,” as Brandon puts it. He noted that there is a lot of enthusiasm when a giving circle is first formed, but that must be sustained by remembering your “why.” Even in the face of difficulty, remembering the driving motivation behind a giving circle can reinvigorate its members and lead to bold, new ideas.
Philanthropy Together aims to strengthen and scale the giving circle movement by working with giving circles like DAAP. Learn more at philanthropytogether.org.