Valaida Fullwood on the History of African Americans and Philanthropy

About This Episode

Contrary to popular belief, philanthropy has been a long standing tradition of the African American community. Valiada shares her insights about how African Americans give, why they give and what the future holds. Through interviews completed while researching for her book, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, she uncovered the spirit of generosity that has strengthened communities for generations.


Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida Fullwood brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer, public speaker and consultant on various projects and events in the philanthropic sector. Her client base ranges widely and her interests center on social innovation in philanthropy, education and the arts. In short, she helps people and organizations drive bold ideas forward by guiding their projects and by writing their stories.

Valaida is the award-winning author of Giving Back, a 400-page hardcover book profiling stories of philanthropy among African Americans that was developed with photographer Charles Thomas. Giving Back, her first book, was named one of the 10 Best Black Books of 2011 and received the prestigious 2012 McAdam Book Award, which recognizes “the most inspirational and useful new book for the nonprofit sector.”

Since the release of Giving Back, Valaida is recognized a thought leader on African American philanthropy and community-led philanthropy and is frequently invited by a variety of groups to write, talk and consult on the topic. She is featured in a 2013 TEDx Talk on philanthropy and was selected the 2014 Lake Distinguished Visitor at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University—the first African American to receive the honor. Valaida was named a 2012 Charlotte Catalyst by Uptown Magazine and the keynote speaker, at the 2013 North Carolina Center for Nonprofits statewide conference, delivering the message: Philanthropy For and By The People. In collaboration with Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU in Charlotte, NC, she attracted grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and others contributors totaling more than $240,000 to reimagine the book Giving Back as a multimedia, touring exhibition. Titled Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, the exhibit is now traveling to college campuses, public libraries and museums, nationwide. Her primary passion is cross-cultural and international exploration. She is a founding member of New Generation of African American Philanthropists—a giving circle that gives back through grantmaking and civic engagement.

Valaida blogs at and enjoys social media connections on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter at @ValaidaF and @BlkGivesBackCLT. As a writer and public speaker, she enjoys sharing stories and engaging audiences around Giving Back and looks forward to publishing more books.

Questions Answered on this Episode

  • What prompted you to write your book, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists?
  • Oftentimes, when we talk about philanthropy, there is the assumption that the donor has to be wealthy, but we know that isn’t the case. What did you find in the stories that you captured in your book?
  • Do you think that your book has impacted readers in terms of how they think about philanthropy?
  • Are there specific approaches to giving that are more common in African American communities than in others?
  • There was a recent report commissioned by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation. The report, the Giving Code, talked about the need for new ways for nonprofit organizations to connect with donors. One area of focus was on the millennial donor. Is there a “giving code” that you see, or one that is emerging for African American millennials?
  • I know that you are one of the architects of Black Philanthropy month. What can you tell us about that?
  • What are the issues or challenges that you see in the African American philanthropy space?
  • What shifts do you see being made?
  • If you were looking ahead, five years from now, what changes would you predict in philanthropy as it relates to people of color?
  • Are there more effective ways to harness African American dollars for good than what is currently being done?