Investing in BLOs

Do we need to take a closer look at Black-Led Organizations to help ensure their sustainability and effectiveness?

Are all nonprofits created equally?

Do they receive equal investment? Have equitable access to resources and expertise? Do we need to take a closer look at Black-led organizations to help ensure their sustainability and effectiveness? What role do these organizations play and why are they important?

In the report “Black-Led Organizations In The Bay Area: From Crisis to Change” authors Constance Walker and Jeannine Walker refer to these organizations as “BLOs” and define them as “registered nonprofit organizations with Black staff and/or Board leadership.” Their report for the Bay Area Black United Fund documents and analyzes the results of surveys and focus groups that gather information about BLOs in the San Francisco Bay Area. We share the findings – and subsequent actions and investments – as an example of one way to advance equity in the nonprofit sector.

Here are a few of the key findings, excerpted from the report.

Ninety percent of Bay Area BLOs identify themselves as community-based organizations. Seventy-five percent are mature organizations that have operated for 11 or more years. Forty-seven percent have very small budgets of $500,000 or less while only 10 percent have budgets greater than $5,000,000. Forty-two percent have no reserves or endowment and, for those that do, it is most often insufficient. For 92 percent, the chief executive officer or executive director primarily conducts fundraising and resource development. Bay Area BLOs have limited staff support. Sixty-two percent have staffs of 10 people or less and 84 percent have staffs of 20 people or less. For 59 percent of Bay Area BLOs at least half of their clients are Black and 30 percent serve a client-base that is at least 80 percent Black. On average, the ethnic composition of the population served by Bay Area BLOs is 59 percent Black and 23 percent Latino.

In terms of moving forward, Walker and Walker report revenue, systems, training and leadership development will be critical to the success of BLOs and the communities they serve. They also reported that BLOs who participated in the study were very interested in a “collaborative capacity building initiative” that would target BLOs.

This report, written in 2015, has become a call to action. Since its publication five funders – The East Bay Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, The Y & H Soda Foundation and The California Endowment – have come together as the Funders’ Collaborative to invest in capacity building that will support the growth, sustainability and impact of BLOs. Their goal is to enhance the growth, sustainability, impact and sense of community of Black-led anchor institutions in the Bay Area that provide critical programs and services to ensure the long-term vitality of the organizations and the Black communities they serve.

This initiative will include an accelerator for emerging, innovative community anchors, a three-year stabilizer program for mature community anchors and cross-cutting programs and services open to all BLOs in the service area.

We are proud to be part of this initiative and hope it will become a model for communities across the country.

Copyright 2017 – Mel Shaw and Pearl Shaw, CFRE


Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For more information visit or call (901) 522-8727.


Are all nonprofits created equally?

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