Baobab Foundation, addressing funding inequalities for Black and Ethnic Minority communities

The pandemic and the Black Lives Matters movement exposed the inequity that exists in the funding received by Black and Ethnic Minority communities. Now a new organisation, led by the communities it serves, is taking steps to address the issues.

The following was written by By Joe Ferns, Programme Director at the Baobab Foundation, and originally shared on the NAVCA website.

Many foundations and funders have been thinking about what they should do next and some initially offered tailored funding programmes directly or via intermediaries.

That investment is welcome but we need to make sure that we change things for the long term and the only way we’ll do that is if we change the systems, processes and behaviours which have created the historic deficit.

That’s why we need something new.

The Baobab Foundation is a new organisation. Led by the communities it serves, Baobab will put power and money where it needs to be – in the hands of those who know what to do with it. Decisions about Baobab will be made by its members, that includes decisions about the organisation and decisions about funding.

Baobab will be a new force in the funding ecosystem in the UK, educating funders, challenging systems which disadvantage Black and Ethnic Minority communities, creating larger and more inclusive funding programmes than have ever been tried before. We’ll work with corporate foundations, charitable foundations and private philanthropy to offer innovative types of funding designed around the needs of community organisation. We’ll go beyond funding to create opportunities for new types of partnerships and networks so Black and Ethnic Minority community organisations can better communicate and collaborate.

Between January and July 2021 we will be hosting conversations with Black and Ethnic Minority communities across the country so that we can develop our strategy and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Part of that effort is this survey we have published which is asking organisations who focus on meeting the needs of Black and Ethnic Minority communities, to tell us about their experience and how we can add value to their work. We’re keen to hear from organisations and communities that are often not heard in these conversations – so if you’re based outside London, or coming from a community that is often missed, we need to hear from you!

When we launch in late 2021 we will immediately open for funding applications (we aim to have around £5m to distribute) and the decisions about those awards will be made by our members because we believe a funder’s job is to put power in the hands of those closest to the work. By the time we launch, we expect our membership to have grown to several hundred organisations and to be organised into regional groups because we know that centralised structures are part of the old way of thinking and have rarely served us well.

We will establish an endowment so that Baobab can be truly independent and sit, with equality, at the same table as the big funders. It will also mean we are sustainable and with you for the long term. To do this, we are aiming at an endowment of £1bn, which will allow us to make grants of around £50m per year.

We’re building a new way of looking at funding. A new organisation and a new way of working. We’ll make mistakes, we’ll try things that don’t work, we’ll learn as we go and we’ll get stronger every time we have the honesty and courage to talk about what needs to be better.

Already we are many but we need to grow further to ensure we can create connectivity for as many groups as possible, and start closing the divide for those in different parts of the UK or from groups that are often excluded, that includes young people, disabled people, women, trans people, faith communities and so on.

We have three types of Membership (all are free):

  • Members are not for profit organisations who are focussed on meeting the needs of Black and Ethnic Minority communities
  • Associate Members are not for profit organisations whose purpose is wider but who want to be involved in help deliver our impact
  • Supporters are individuals, groups or organisations who don’t fit the other classifications and who want to get our newsletters and stay updated on our work.

Does this sound like a movement you want to be a part of?

Join Baobab and please take 5 minutes to complete the survey (linked above), share this article or tell someone you think would be interested in Baobab and what we are trying to build.

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