By Ryan Velez
A year ago, the New York-based NoVo Foundation pledged to put a $90 million commitment towards helping girls of color. Now, Black Enterprise reports that the foundation, started in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, the youngest son and daughter-in-law of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, has unveiled its plan to rollout said funds. The approach, in a nutshell, is novel but overdue: letting the community determine its needs rather than force it to spend in certain areas.
Why was this plan so integral for the disbursement of funds? Pamela Shifman, executive director of the foundation, explained in a statement to U.S. News that different communities of minority girls face different issues, and as a result, “one size fits all was never going to work in terms of the kind of support we offer. “We wanted to let girls of color and their advocates really determine their most important needs because they are the experts on their own lives.”
Over the seven years of commitment, the money will go towards three main streams. One stream of grants will be open to community-based organizations around the country, working with minority girls particularly. Another stream will focus particularly on the Southeastern United States, where over 40% of the country’s minority girls reside. A regional partner will allocate funds both to existing groups as well as people outside of formal investigations helping women and girls of color. In addition to the large population of girls of color, the Southeast has been neglected relatively in terms of both philanthropic attention and infrastructure. The final stream of grants will go towards supporting national policy and research organizations dedicated to issues towards women and girls of color.
Shifman explained that the first grants will be distributed in the fall. $13 million will be expected to be distributed over the first year of funding.
Kameisha Smith, founder of the Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity, expressed how happy she was with the approach, noting that she has never seen a funder use this method. Having worked with NoVo before, she said that it was a great opportunity “to be able to do the work that you have set forth as a priority, not them.”
Peter Buffett explained that this was just as planned. “I’d rather see organizational capacity get built so they can decide,” he said.