Leverage The Trust: A Convergence of Black Trustees to Advance Racial Equity

Leverage The Trust: A Convergence of Black Trustees to Advance Racial Equity
By: Juston (JC) Cooper, Director of Networks and Partnerships at ABFE


In a powerful demonstration of commitment to advancing racial equity, Black trustees from diverse philanthropic institutions gathered at the prestigious National Council of Negro Women in Washington, DC, for ABFE’s Leverage the Trust (LTT) National Convening. As a cornerstone within ABFE’s leadership events, the trustees united with a shared mission to drive a transformative racial equity agenda within their organizations and the sector. 



The event kicked off with a compelling fireside chat with Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO of ABFE and trustee at Schott Foundation, and Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project, who also sits on the board of Hill Snowdon Foundation. Judith spoke about the importance of funding Black leaders, the funding cliff many Black-led nonprofits are navigating, and the need for philanthropy to trust Black leaders more.    



The convening explored opportunities to leverage trustee positions to advance a strategic agenda benefiting Black communities through diverse investment practices, governance, support of Black-led nonprofits, and emerging strategies to organize in a post-affirmative action landscape. Each topic contributed to building momentum towards strategy exchange, information sharing, and peer-to-peer networking. The urgency of fostering a climate of Black Trustee leadership became evident, with trustees showing a remarkable sense of urgency. 





The ensuing discussion ignited a fire in the hearts of the trustees in attendance, who explored ways to leverage their positions on foundation boards and the billions of dollars in assets to advance a strategic agenda benefiting Black communities. The panel emphasized the crucial role of smart investment in Black communities, urging trustees to promote equity in hiring, contracting, and the development of a pipeline for Black and BIPOC asset managers.




Participating in conversations with Black trustee leadership was invigorating. The depth of expertise and brilliance in the room was essential for mitigating the undercurrents of the current political climate and advancing equity for Black America. The convening concluded with a significant moment – trustees sharing their personal commitment statements.  This exercise affirmed a collective responsibility, accountability, and acknowledgment of the power of coming together as Black Trustees. 




In the face of challenges to civil rights, attacks on the quality of life in Black communities, and attempts to cast shadows on progress, witnessing Black leadership poised to fight for progress and advance equity is encouraging. What an amazing event! It is an honor to be a part of ABFE’s 2023 Leverage the Trust National Convening.