Hidden Gem

 Hidden Gem

African-American Community Fund marks 25 years of giving

Mike Boyer

It may be one of Dayton’s best-kept secrets, certainly in the area of philanthropy.

The African-American Community Fund, a component fund of The Dayton Foundation, will mark its 25th anniversary with a Dayton Art Institute gala on Nov. 11.

The African-American Community Fund, which is focused on, but not limited to, giving in the African-American community, is believed to be the oldest and largest such community fund in the country.

The fund, which started with just $50,000 in 1992, has assets today of more than $6 million, says Joshua Johnson, African-American Community Fund board president. It incorporates more than 200 funds or individual donors ranging from scholarships, charitable checking accounts and donor-advised and discretionary funds.

The fund has made more than 3,000 grants to some 320 different organizations in the community totaling more $4 million since its inception.

For example, last year the fund made a $2,500 grant to Dayton Children’s Hospital to support its Sickle Cell Family Day, an event focusing on a disease prevalent in the African-American community.
The African-American Community Fund also has awarded $565,800 in scholarships to more than 400 students.

“It’s been a great program for this community, an opportunity for many families and individuals to participate in philanthropy and direct income from contributions to whatever programs or charities they like,” says John E. Moore Sr., 94, a community legend and co-founder of the African-American Community Fund with the late Lloyd E. Lewis Jr.

Moore, a former chairman and a member of the Dayton Foundation Governing Board from 1972 to 1991, says the idea for the African-American Community Fund came out of attending the National Council on Foundations meetings in the mid-1980s.

There was a lot of discussion about getting large national foundations to donate to minority causes, Moore says, “but I wondered about participation of the African-American community itself.”

He says, “I thought even though minority families may not have as much from an economic point of view, over time some families can accumulate quite a bit. It can make a difference when you add it all up in a program like the (African-American Community Fund).”

With Fred Bartenstein III, first full-time executive director of the Dayton Foundation, the decision was made to launch a program to engage the minority community in giving. To build enthusiasm initially, Bartenstein proposed the community foundation would match 50 cents on the dollar for each account up to $25,000, Moore says.

Lewis, who was a member of a prominent African-American family in Dayton, was named first board president of the African-American Community Fund. “He did a great job and the rest is sort of history,” Moore says.

“When we started I had no idea how good it would be,” says Moore. “I just knew it was an idea whose time had come.“

Since its creation the African-American Community Fund has helped other communities such as Cincinnati and Louisville start similar funds.

Johnson, a certified financial planner with Lifeplan Financial Group in Miamisburg, has been the African-American Community Fund president for two years.

He says he had never heard of the African-American Community Fund until he was talking one day with a neighbor who served on the board.

“He asked me if I would serve on the board,” he says. “I had never heard of it. But after I looked into it I liked what it stands for and have been honored to serve.”

There are many nonprofits in the community that need help and the African-American Community Fund offers a structured way to help them—and not just with money.

“One of the things we started doing is putting on workshops so organizations know how to apply for grants,” Johnson says. “A lot of organizations were never taught how to apply for grants. They were rejected but got no feedback on the reasons why. We want to tell them, ‘This is what you need to do to get it to move to the next level.’ We’ve been very successful the last few years and notice a substantial difference in the quality of the applications being submitted.”

Debbie Carter of Vandalia, a teacher at Miami Valley Career Center, learned about the African-American Community Fund through a community service grant her sorority applied for. The African-American Community Fund, she says, “is a hidden gem.”

She and her husband, Michael, senior adviser to the president of Sinclair Community College and chief diversity officer, have been donating to the fund for several years.

“Mike and I are longtime Dayton residents and strong community supporters,” says Debbie, “Our families gave back to the community and for us it was just a natural thing to do.”

Her husband says, “We give to a number of organizations but what’s appealing about the (African-American Community Fund) is that it specifically targets the African-American community.”

Because of their interest in education the Carters focus a lot of their giving in that area.

“Through the fund we were able to set up a charitable checking account and hopefully we’ll someday be able to do an endowed scholarship so even after we’re gone those organizations we love and support will continue to be supported,” says Debbie.

Debbie, who recently joined the African-American Community Fund’s board, says the upcoming anniversary gala will be an opportunity to introduce more of the community to the fund.

Johnson, who has challenged the fund’s board to increase its annual distributions back to the community, says this year’s fund-raising goal is $50,000.