REENERGIZING PHILANTHROPIC GIVING
BY DEVIN J. OWENS
PHOTO BY HERB THOMPSON
It was more than seven years ago when Omaha native and I Be Black Girl (IBBG) co-founder Jay Warren-Teamer toyed with the idea of creating a giving circle for Black women in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area.
“Have you heard about this giving circle thing?” she began asking.
Warren-Teamer’s initial inquiries generated buzz among her colleagues and peers, but until recently, the personal and professional demands of those interested at the time prevented further steps for activation.
Warren-Teamer’s interest in philanthropy was fostered in college, where summers free from classes were spent working at area nonprofits. It was there she gained hands-on knowledge to accompany her undergraduate educational track at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Early experiences in the nonprofit sector exposed Warren-Teamer to the crippling financial deficits of some metro-based organizations.
“We were paying for crayons out of our pockets,” Warren-Teamer says.
After graduation, Warren-Teamer returned to Omaha and stepped into a role at Partnership for Kids, where she spearheaded volunteer recruitment, program evaluation, and staff training and development. Here her understanding of how the flow of capital could impact an organization’s day-to-day operations deepened.
“Working for a multi-million dollar organization, I wondered how I could leverage my skills, passions and interests to create meaningful change for the things I cared about,” Warren-Teamer says.
Change is at the very root of what IBBG strives to do in the metro. The low-barrier collective for Black women and girls to connect, grow and give was framed by the term “I Be” from author bell hooks. IBBG prides itself on being an inclusive, social space where the energy and essence of what it means to be a Black woman or girl can be celebrated. Members are free to define and own that narrative as they see fit as well as participate in IBBG led events or groups—quarterly networking mixers, IBBG Book Club or Mommy’s Group.
“Such a broad spectrum of women are represented in IBBG. We simply ask, “Are you a Black woman or girl?” If yes, you’re in,” Warren-Teamer says.
The creation of IBBG, like many present-day movements or collectives, was spring boarded by social media. A Facebook post shared by IBBG co-founder Ashlei Spivey (profiled on page 28) expressed concern and frustration with the lack of spaces in the metro for Black women and girls to show up authentically. Spivey’s sentiments weren’t isolated—it wasn’t long after the Facebook post garnered substantial engagement that founders Warren-Teamer and Spivey—along with a newly formed advisory committee—hosted the first IBBG mixer in November 2017. More than 50 Black women and girls were in attendance to network, socialize, enjoy food and drinks, and unwind from the daily pressures associated with being a Black woman or girl—all together in one safe space.
“After the first mixer, I looked at Ashlei and knew we had an opportunity to do something big for our community,” Warren-Teamer says.
As IBBG membership and engagement continued to grow, Warren-Teamer revisited the giving circle conversation with Spivey and the IBBG advisory committee. With everyone on board and eager to leverage the collective of Black women and girls, IBBG leadership dove in to understand the inner workings of successful giving circles—especially those for Black women and people of color across the country. Outside of raising funds, detailed considerations regarding equitable distribution, collection and holding of funds presented itself to the group.
“Once we decided to move forward with the giving circle under IBBG, we spent nearly six months brainstorming who could host the fund and what that partnership would look like,” Warren-Teamer says. “Much like the social aspect of IBBG, we wanted to get away from anything that felt inaccessible, so it was important for our fiscal partnership to align with that priority.”
After months of research and inquiry, IBBG aligned with the Women’s Fund of Omaha to serve as the fiscal agent and partner for “IBBGives”—the philanthropic giving component of the social group. This partnership not only allowed the giving circle to kick off quickly, but the group was also able to tap into knowledge from the Women’s Fund, a local nonprofit that actively makes funding decisions that impact women and girls in the metro.
With a fiscal agent, an engaged advisory committee and a membership prepared to take action, Warren-Teamer was ready to make visions of the long-awaited giving circle come to life.
“In my professional roles, I constantly saw the discrepancy,” Warren-Teamer says. “There was a lack of access for smaller and grassroots organizations to receive funding, not to mention I didn’t see many Black-women-led nonprofits in the metro, so I knew IBBGives had the opportunity to change that.”
IBBG leadership set a goal of $10,000 for the inaugural year of IBBGives. While anyone in or connected to the community was encouraged and allowed to donate, only those who identified as Black women or girls and donated $150 or more were allowed to participate in the voting process to determine which initiatives and organizations would receive funding.
This was an intentional move by IBBG leadership to redistribute power in the grant-making process, where Black women are often excluded.
In order to remain aligned with accessibility, IBBGives allowed donations to be made on a payment plan basis, whereas the required $150 donation to be a voting member could be split over the course of two or even four months. “Installment plans for giving makes being a philanthropist feel tangible,” Warren-Teamer says. “Members were able to see giving fit into their lives.”
As donations continued to pour in, IBBGives quickly surpassed the $10,000 goal, going on to raise more than $49,000 before December 31, 2018.
“The response to IBBGives was overwhelming. The smallest personal donation was $10 and the largest was $1,500,” Warren-Teamer says.
Applications for IBBGives funding opened in early March and the group was once again surprised by the outpouring of interest. “We received more than 50 proposals and every one was so unique,” Warren-Teamer says.
Grantees were selected by 77 voting members who attended an in-person kick off session to review IBBG funding parameters.
IBBGives awarded $36,700 to Black women and girl led initiatives or organizations in the metro. Grant recipients received full funding shortly after the announcement and are required to report back to the IBBG advisory committee no later than June 30, 2020 with updates on impact.
“We stay in contact with our grantees to see how we can be helpful, but don’t require a great deal of reporting because we understand that they often have other responsibilities outside of their philanthropic work,” Warren-Teamer says.
The remaining funds from the more than $49,000 raised will cycle into the 2020 grant year.
IBBGives has launched fundraising for year two and will continue accepting donations until December 31, 2019. Installment plans are available and additional information regarding giving can be found at IBBGOmaha.com.
“My favorite thing about IBBGives is that we have created philanthropists,” Warren-Teamer says. “If you look at your favorite nonprofit’s annual report or walk into a building, it’s the same grouping of benefactors. IBBGives has tapped into a group of people who have never been asked to give to something that’s close to them.”