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Black Philanthropy Month: A Conversation with Aimee Laramore

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Aimee Laramore was the board chairman for Emerging Pearls Foundation, Inc., when I joined the board about ten years ago. As a young professional, Aimee taught me a lot about board membership, board operations, and fundraising. She's one of the reasons I'm an active board member with Emerging Pearls Foundation, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, and the 2020 Women on Boards Delaware Committee.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel with Aimee where she shared some insights around Black Philanthropy Month. #BlackPhilanthropyMonth is a yearly celebration created in August 2011 to elevate African-descent giving. The aim of #BlackPhilanthropyMonth is to inform, involve, inspire, and invest in Black philanthropic leadership. Even though Aimee and I no longer serve together, she's still teaching me.

I wanted to learn more about philanthropy, faith, fundraising, and giving so we sat down a few weeks later for a virtual chat. When you think about philanthropy, the Fords, Rockefellers, and DuPonts may come to mind. Aimee shared we need to know that philanthropy is not white, it's not wealth, and it's not dead. As I did research after our conversation on giving circles I saw names like Tameka as givers and it made my smile. It's so important for you to see others who have come before you, who look like you. Representation matters. Imagine that, a philanthropist named Tameka. We are philanthropists and the black community has a long history of giving.

Here are some other highlights from our conversation.

1) There is a difference between philanthropy and charity.

The root of philanthropy is "phil," which is a Greek word meaning "love." Hence, we have Philadelphia the city of brotherly love which is about 30 minutes from my home in Wilmington, DE. So, for Aimee, philanthropy means the love of humankind. And it refers to the long-lasting impact and legacy that your giving will create. Philanthropy is a strategic form of giving and focuses on rebuilding.

Philanthropy asks this question: What impact do you want your financial resources to have?

Charity, on the other hand, tends to be simple, immediate acts of gratification such as purchasing tickets for raffles or attending a pancake breakfast fundraiser. Charity tends to focus on rescue and relief.

2) We have a more significant impact when we pool our money together through giving circles.

Aimee had the opportunity to sit down and talk with these women over dinner. And, their passion and commitment were clear. One woman who saw a need connected several women who cared about each other and their giving power has continued to grow. Their love of God can be seen in the visible and tangible ways they serve down and pool their money together to make a difference. This led to the formation of the 20/20 Sisters of Vision Giving Circle. This giving circle consists of women from the African diaspora, and their mission is to "Empower women and families in local and global communities." Since 2009, they have given $21,384 to support women and families.

Aimee had the opportunity to sit down and talk with these women over dinner. And, their passion and commitment was clear. One woman who saw a need, connected several women who cared about each other and their giving power has continued to grow. Their love of God can be seen in the visible and tangible ways they serve others.

Simply put, a giving circle is a group of people who pool their resources to make an impact. A high school classmate started a giving circle called the "$1 Club". The club has 248 members who give a $1 per month. The group votes via Facebook on which organizations will receive the funds each month. People can participate as nominators of charities, voters, or both. It's up to the individual to determine how active they will be within the $1 Club. The group primarily focuses on St. Louis area organizations.

When we pool our twenty-dollar bills together, the potential of what we can do is impressive, according to Aimee. It allows us to have a say into where are dollars are directed and the funds are able to directly benefit the organization.

Aimee shared the history of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists by Valaida Fullwood. The giving circle, a New Generation of African American Philanthropists - Charlotte, funded the book and the proceeds from the sale of the book go back to the giving circle to give away. It is truly a model for internal funding and a unique way to fund a business venture. If you're interested in studying more about black culture and philanthropy, she recommends the book which lifts up "seldom-celebrated traditions among Americans of African descent. Rarely acknowledged as philanthropy, these century-old cultural customs and beliefs customs and beliefs nevertheless continue to have an impact on lives and communities."

Have you considered a giving circle? Are you a member of giving circle? Let me know your giving circle experiences.

3) Create a giving strategy. Then review your giving for the last 12 months and ensure it aligns with your strategy.

As you craft your giving strategy, here are some questions that Aimee recommends you consider:

  • What brings you joy?

  • What legacy do you want to leave behind?

  • What is God asking of you or leading you to do?

After you've created your giving strategy, then you should examine your giving for the year and make sure there is alignment between your strategy and giving. Make sure you include all of your giving, including those round-up at the register opportunities or those purchases of shamrocks at your local restaurant. Does your giving align with your giving story or giving strategy? If not, you may need to make some adjustments.

As a result of our conversation, I was motivated to create my giving strategy. My priorities are a) women empowerment, b) financial literacy and empowerment, and c) higher education. These are the areas that bring me joy. So, I want 90% of my giving to benefit these areas. My relationships are also vital to me, and I want to be able to support my family and friends with causes that are important to them. So, I'll leave 10% of my income to help walk-a-thons, Facebook giving campaigns, etc.

I also tithe to my church. And, originally I didn't include this in my giving strategy because for me it's like paying my mortgage. Aimee challenged me on this point. She said "my commitment to tithing and honoring God is essential as one of my core values."