February marks Black History Month, an opportune time to reflect on the shared struggles and achievements of the black community.
The San Antonio Area Foundation engages in support and uplifting of our city’s black community through our mission and vision and in particular through the philanthropic work of its community outreach fund, the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAACF), formed in 2008.
“The idea was to improve the livelihood of African Americans in the San Antonio community,” explained Bobby Blount, a longtime San Antonio community advocate and Chairman of the SAAAACF Board of Directors. “Our focal point is and always has been how do we build financial philanthropy within that community.”
Through initiatives like the Renaissance with the Stars fundraiser, SAAAAFC has been able generate contributions to support its mission. In part due to its collaboration with the Area Foundation at its outset, it was able to hit the proverbial ground running and it has not stopped since, supporting dozens of local nonprofits through its own grantmaking.
“We do our best to position people in the community to be able to give back,” said Marva Crisp, SAAAAFC board member. “We take the funds that we raise, and we redeposit them right back into the community. It’s important that we give back and it’s important that we support causes that are near and dear to our individual hearts.”
San Antonio nonprofits are encouraged to apply for SAAAACF grants, with the criteria being that their causes serve at minimum a population that is 70 percent African American.
With the population of those identified as African Americans in San Antonio by the most recent U.S. Census at nearly seven percent, most efforts that are germane to the black community serves the overall San Antonio community.
“Not only is what we do important, but there are other organizations and individuals seeking us out to see how we do it,” Crisp said. “As an example, [our board members] have gone to different states to visit with similar organizations as ours to see what they do. They’re always amazed at what we’ve achieved in such a short time.”
Fund leaders said the definition of financial philanthropy has broadened and expanded in its more than 15 years of existence. Initially, SAAAAFC was focused almost exclusively on funding African Americans serving nonprofit organizations. As the Fund has evolved, so has its goals.
“We realized that, really to be successful, we really had to get more involved in the basic needs within the community itself,” explained Blount.
“Our social justice fund has really been helpful with how things are engaged with the police force. Also, our voting rights efforts. Realizing that to give financial philanthropy, there were some basic structural things that we had to address,” Blount noted. “Because we can focus on the issues and challenges within the community, I think people are really starting to take notice of the impact we’re really having.”
Eric Moreno is a contributor to the San Antonio Area Foundation Marketing & Communications Storytelling Ambassador network.