High Impact Philanthropy: Dr Froswa Booker-Drew On How To Leave A Lasting Legacy With A Successful & Effective Nonprofit Organization
An Interview with Karen Mangia
Learn as much as you can about nonprofit management- it’s more than the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping others. You are impacting the lives of others and if you are unprepared, you are creating more dysfunction. Running a nonprofit is a business and if you aren’t willing to build the infrastructure to have a sustainable organization, it’s a disservice to the clients and community. You need mentors, coaches and sponsors who can help you do this work well.
For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew.
Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the author of four books including her soon to be released on the 1845 Imprint of Baylor University Press entitled, Empowering Charity: A New Narrative of Philanthropy. She is the Co-founder of HERitage Giving Circle, one of the first Black women’s Giving Circles in Texas and serves as Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. Booker-Drew is an adjunct at Tulane University and a research affiliate at Antioch University’s Graduate School of Leadership and Change.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
As a kid, I remember watching my grandmother and my parents always helping others. At the time, I wasn’t really sure about the impact of their efforts, but I just believed they were being kind. My mother would always say “to whom much is given, much is required.” I grew up believing that we had a responsibility to not only fulfill our purpose but to make a difference in the lives of others. At the time, I didn’t know what philanthropy was, but I was amazed at people who were struggling but willing to help others. My grandmother was a part of a group at church called The Willing Workers. These senior citizens were constantly coming up with ways to serve. My mom would take fruit baskets to those who were ill. My dad would give food to others through our restaurant when I was a teenager. They never sought publicity but just did it because it was the right thing to do. That shaped me in ways that I didn’t realize. I started volunteering as a teenager and I haven’t stopped. Giving my time, talent, and treasure is a part of who I am.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.
I saw so many leaders who exhibited traits that were their downfalls — pride, arrogance, envy, jealousy and revenge. Seeing that it didn’t get them far for long, I focused on being someone who was committed to whatever I was doing, understanding the power of relationships, and being grateful. There are others that have been important but these three have been critical.
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
Everyone with a title isn’t a leader. Working in a local community, I have witnessed that titles don’t necessarily equate to power, influence, or respect. I’ve seen individuals that aren’t featured in local newspapers and magazines but have the allegiance and respect of the community in ways that some C-suite leaders don’t have.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?
In my role at the State Fair of Texas, I’m responsible for the philanthropic giving, community partnerships, and educational programming for the organization. It is my desire to change the narrative of philanthropy. Organizations led by people of color are often significantly underfunded. I am elated that more than 70% of the organizations that we fund are led by people of color in grassroot, small to mid-sized orgs. In the US, .6% of organizations led by Black women are funded. As a co-founder of HERitage Giving Circle, we are committed to supporting organizations led by Black women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It’s important to make sure that those with the lived experience of the communities they serve have opportunities to do the necessary work of providing support where needed. They should not be punished because they don’t have the social networks or resources. As a funder, I not only give dollars but focus on building capacity as well as making sure we are connecting our community to other resources.
What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
My passion has gone beyond the work into my latest book, Empowering Charity: A New Narrative of Philanthropy. I want to share my experiences with others as well as debunk myths about low-income communities and communities of color. These myths impact our giving and I use data and my experiences to demonstrate how we’ve gotten it wrong. I also want to help others do it differently. I offer practical tips and solutions to assist those who want to make a difference in their communities. Since I’m a person of faith, I also challenge the faith community to evaluate its views of those who are seen as less than. I’m very passionate about this work because philanthropy must involve those who are ‘served’ to make decisions. There are many rooms and tables that need change immediately.
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?
I’m really proud of so many of the organizations we’ve impacted through my work at the State Fair of Texas or HERitage. I’ve witnessed organizations obtain funding through our advocacy to foundations. We’ve seen organizations grow their capacity due to training and technical assistance offered. We’ve witnessed organizations connect and build partnerships because of our Community Engagement Days at the State Fair. We’ve also connected organizations to resources that help them serve their clients. We don’t do this work in isolation. It’s all about relationships.
We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?
I think a lot of people want to help but they end up hurting others because they base their decisions on a limited perspective and a lack of information. I remember years ago a lady wanted to create a tutoring program. She had no idea what programs existed in the community but because she didn’t see the programs, in her mind, they didn’t exist. Instead of identifying what was already there, she duplicated services. She could have easily partnered with some one else, bringing her gifts and talents to serve. In addition, she didn’t understand why kids needed tutoring. It isn’t always that kids are failing because they can’t read or understand. Often, there are other variables such as ongoing trauma like violence or a lack of nutritious food that can impact a child’s learning. If we don’t solve for those issues, we are placing a band-aid on a problem that will continue to fester. My advice is to educate yourself about the issue, identify who else is doing the work and thirdly, partner with others instead of reinventing the wheel.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.
I mentioned several earlier, but I’ll expound:
1. Educate yourselves about the issue you want to impact. Read studies, gather data, talk with those impacted. It’s dangerous to make decisions about the lives of others especially if it isn’t your lived experience to then create programs because you want to help. People’s lives are stake and can’t afford more experimentation.
2. Identify other programs that are doing the work. Asset mapping is critical. Be aware of the organizations, institutions, associations, businesses, and individuals that are doing the work. It’s so easy to assume no one is doing the work but just because they are not in the newspaper doesn’t mean work isn’t being done. At the State Fair of Texas, we created a website in partnership with Persona Team Media/Julie Morris to list organizations that are often missed in Southern Dallas. They are often smaller without prestigious board members or an abundance of funds but are doing great work and need support. ServeSouthDallas.org is our way of amplifying their work. Are their similar resources in your community that can help you identify what exists?
3. Collaboration is critical. You can not serve others in isolation because quite often, the challenges they face are multi-layered. You must have partners because you cannot be all things to all people.
4. Because you can’t be all things to all people, pick an issue and do it well. You are impacting the lives of others. Collecting data to evaluate how you are making a difference is important. How are you moving the needle beyond just doing something nice?
5. Learn as much as you can about nonprofit management- it’s more than the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping others. You are impacting the lives of others and if you are unprepared, you are creating more dysfunction. Running a nonprofit is a business and if you aren’t willing to build the infrastructure to have a sustainable organization, it’s a disservice to the clients and community. You need mentors, coaches and sponsors who can help you do this work well.
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
I often say there is a difference between success and significance. The pandemic has made me more aware of the importance of building legacy. That’s what significance is about. We can have success by doing something today but will it last is the question. I’ve never been to a funeral in which resumes are read. They often talk about how that person made others feel. In light of what we’ve experienced in the last several years, each of us has either been affected by COVID or we know someone who has. Our focus must be more about people because you can’t make a profit or a difference without people. We need each other. When we serve each other well, that’s successful AND significant.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
I’m going through a very difficult season of my life right now and my inspiration comes from my faith. I know that things are getting better (and they are!!!). I remind myself that it’s temporary. I focus on what I’m grateful for in the moment and I allow myself to plan and dream of the future possibilities. I’m also inspired by the people I get to interact with daily. I witness greatness daily through the people I am honored to work with in the community. It blesses me to see all that they go through and how they continue to persevere, advocate, resist and hold on to joy.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Off the top of my head, I’d love to know Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, and Dr. John H. Jackson of the Schott Foundation. There are many other philanthropic and faith leaders I’d love to connect with — I’d love to share more about my book, my work and experience. I’m still hoping that Oprah, Brene Brown, Priscilla Shirer, and Reid Tracy of Hay House will see me — putting it out there…. 😊
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
I hope people will check out my book at https://www.baylorpress.com/9781481316095/empowering-charity/. I’m on LinkedIn under my name.
On Twitter, I’m @Froswa and Instagram @DrFroswa
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.