The African-American Tradition of Giving



By Randal Pinkett & Jeffrey Robinson,
Author of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness

African Americans have a long-standing tradition of philanthropy, or giving back to improve the human quality of life. It is rooted in the African concept of family, which formed the basis for social life and social values in Africa.

In the twenty-first century, giving by African Americans reflects many of the traditions that have been established over the years. Modern African American giving has distinct underlying philosophies and characteristics, namely:

  • A broad conceptualization of family and kinship ties that include not only blood relatives but also distant relatives, friends, neighbors, and long-time acquaintances. This is embodied by references to other African Americans-even when they are not related to us-as “brothers,” “sisters,” “cousins,” and the like.
  • A relative preference for giving directly to individuals as opposed to nonprofit organizations.
  • A higher value for contributions of time than money. The church is the single greatest beneficiary of African-American monetary donations. More than two-thirds of African-American charitable dollars are contributed to churches.
  • A deep feeling of obligation to help members of the Black community and others in need or crisis as a result of being helped by others. To the extent that someone is known or perceived to have abandoned this obligation they may be labeled as a “sellout” or an “Uncle Tom.
  • A sense of responsibility to not leave anyone behind, and success alone is insufficient without helping others to also be successful. Helping any part of the community is interpreted as helping the entire community.

One of the major challenges you’ll face as a successful and busy individual is making decisions about the approach you’ll take toward your giving. What is your strategy for giving? “Strategic giving” is a phrase we use to describe giving in the right way at the right time for the right reason, cause, or issue.

We believe the four foundations of giving are time, talent, treasure, and something we refer to as touch. It is our personal responsibility to find ways to give back generously in each of these areas. It’s been said that we should all donate 10 percent of our time, talent, and treasure to worthy activities and organizations that make the world a better place. The basic principle here is an ancient one called tithing – a concept that both of us wholeheartedly endorse. The idea of tithing has biblical origins. The people of God were required to give 10 percent of their earnings back to God. The priests received the tithe on God’s behalf, and their responsibility was to distribute this money, as well as other goods and in many cases livestock and crops, to widows, the fatherless, strangers, and the homeless and destitute, and keep some for the operation of the house of God – the temple or the church. Clearly, this practice had positive ramifications throughout the community.

The above is an excerpt from the book Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness by Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Adapted from Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness by Randal Pinkett & Jeffrey Robinson with Philana Patterson (AMACOM; October 2010; $24.95 Hardcover; 978-0-8144-1680-8).


Author Bios
Randal Pinkett, Ph.D.
, coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, was the winner of season four of The Apprentice and the show’s first minority winner. He is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of BCT Partners, an information technology and management consulting firm. Dr. Pinkett is based in Somerset, New Jersey.

For more information please visit www.randalpinkett.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeffrey Robinson, Ph.D.
, coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, is a leading business scholar at Rutgers Business School and lives in Piscataway, New Jersey.

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3 Responses to “The African-American Tradition of Giving”

  1. […] reading here: The African-American Tradition of Giving « Black Men In America Filed Under: ArticlesTagged: basis, formed-the-basis, human, human-quality, improve-the-human, […]

  2. I am reading this book right now. Very insightful. I was feeling somethings that were very much explained in this book. It is right on time. Can’t wait to finish it. People should buy this book.

  3. […] The African-American Tradition of Giving « Black Men In America […]

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