Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Baltimore Legacy Builders Collective launches as a model for Black-led orgs’ shared fundraising

B-360, I am MENtality and The Be.org want to build capacity for both Black-led nonprofits, and funders.

B-360 students with Chino Braxton (bottom row, 3rd from left), a professional dirt bike rider from Baltimore.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A group of Black-led nonprofits serving youth in Baltimore is formally launching as a collective, and brought on members of a joint development team that will help each to raise funds.

The three orgs — dirt bike culture-centered STEM program B-360, male youth leadership workforce development organization I am MENtality and social and emotional learning-focused The Be.org — joined together under the umbrella of the Baltimore Legacy Builders Collective.

The launch comes after two years of organizing around the collective and securing grant funding from the T. Rowe Price Foundation that is matched over three years. It is timed with Giving Tuesday, the global fundraising effort through which the collective is aiming to raise $30,000.

The collective shows an example of grassroots organizations in Baltimore who often work together joining up to share resources, and bring what they’ve learned to the community. The founders, who include The Be. org’s Tonee Lawson, B-360’s Brittany Young and I Am MENtality’s Darren Rogers, have long worked together. Now, they’re working with a development team as they seek to increase fundraising, and work toward goals of providing 100 hours of training to 1,300 youth in the next year. They’re also looking to create a model that can help additional organizations, and change philanthropy for Black-led organizations that often struggle to raise funds in a landscape of mostly white-led foundations.

“Our collective fundraising goal will allow us to individually continue to build capacity and be more sustainable, but also plant a seed for other Black-led nonprofits in the city so they could reap the benefits of a shared chief development or development team if they so choose,” said Lawson.

Technical.ly first caught up with the leaders of the initiative earlier this year, and the model of hiring a chief development officer that would work across organizations was immediately intriguing. Since then the group has evolved. For one, a fourth organization that was initially involved, Mentoring Mentors, decided to work with a development professional outside of the collective.

Initial plans for a chief development officer have also morphed to bringing on a full team. That includes three junior advisors, who are volunteers:

  • Chelsea Brown, a graduate student at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy
  • Robbin Lee, the executive director of Baltimore Homecoming
  • Matthew Reeds, the founder and executive director of The Reeds Fund

They’re already meeting weekly with the group to review performance measures and outcomes.

“We are able to help leverage their individual networks and also bring them into the fold of what raising funds for new initiatives and smaller Black-led organizations look like,” Lawson said.

The team also includes a grant writer, and plans are still in place to bring on a chief development officer, whom the collective plans to announce in early 2021, Lawson said.

It has taken on additional urgency in 2020, as the pandemic and racial equity movement both laid bare the disparities that play out when it comes to opportunity for both Black youth, and the growth of the organizations that sprung up in response to unmet needs in their communities. A study published in May by Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group found that average revenue of Black-led organizations are 24% smaller than white-led counterparts.

“As three Black-led organizations with limited resources it’s been traditionally harder to reach major funders on our own,” Young said in a statement. “We’ve seen funding priorities shift to COVID relief this year and that’s put an added strain on not just on our programming, but funding as well.”

So as the three members of the collective are building toward their own goals, they also want to grow. By the end of 2021, they want to provide technical support and assistance to one other org. By developing others through the development team, the idea is that they will grow both Black-led organizations, and Black funders.

“The goal is for us to help build capacity in those individual organizations, but also in the long term be able to reshape the landscape of philanthropy in this city,” Lawson said.

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