Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Insider: Sandra R. Smith, President, Foundation for the African Diaspora

By Valaida Fullwood
BlackGivesBack Contributor

Meet Sandra R. Smith, president of the Foundation for the African Diaspora (F4AD), a public charitable organization based in Columbus, Ohio. F4AD supports and promotes the educational and economic goals of people living in poverty. Much of its emphasis is on women and girls as a means to promote family stability and sustainability; however, it does not exclude programs targeting men and boys.

The aims of F4AD include supporting organizations that provide access to primary and secondary education for girls in the African Diaspora, including girls living in poverty or non-supportive environments and rural areas; promoting and providing education and information about the needs of poor and low-income women and girls in the African Diaspora; supporting organizations that provide access to education and technical skills training for nontraditional students, with an emphasis on single parents; and supporting organizations that provide economic empowerment programs for people living in poverty including entrepreneurial, micro-loan and micro-enterprise programs.

Read on for more information about Sandra—her background, her current work at F4AD and her lessons learned.

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Education:: B.A. Arts Education-Capital University; M.A. Arts Administration-The Ohio State University

Previous Positions: Senior Program Officer, The Columbus Foundation; President & CEO, Madame Walker Theatre Center (Indianapolis); Deputy Director, The King Arts Complex (Columbus)

Civic Involvement: Leadership Council, United Negro College Fund/Columbus

Tell us more about the mission and grantmaking of the Foundation for the African Diaspora.

F4AD is a nonprofit organization founded in Columbus, Ohio in 2009. F4AD’s mission is “to support, inform, and partner with Diaspora organizations that assist persons living in poverty across the African Diaspora achieve self-sustainability.” F4AD believes that if people are nurtured, well educated, and economically self-sufficient, they and their children will become self-reliant, contributing citizens of their communities and the global workforce.

What’s your response to people who question global giving, citing disparities and needs here at home in the United States?

I believe that we can support our needs here at home and support needs abroad, especially on the African continent. In many cases, a small amount can make a big difference on the continent.

Your foundation follows a “modified social venture philanthropy model.” What does that model look like? And what are your guiding principles?

We like to work closely with the organizations we support. We offer technical assistance if needed, and we invite our supporters to direct their funds where they feel it will do the most good. We focus on supporting and partnering with smaller community based organizations that are on the ground in the community making change. Many times these organizations benefit from both monetary and technical support.

How did you become involved in the field of philanthropy?

In my previous employment as a funder and in the nonprofit sector, I have seen how important philanthropy is to addressing needs in communities across the world. Secondly, I grew up in a household with a mom that was philanthropic in her activities without it being money. She constantly shared with other people, not understanding she was being philanthropic by sharing food, information, time, and in some cases our home with others.

What lessons have you learned that could benefit others interested in diaspora philanthropy?

That most of us are philanthropic even though we don't think of ourselves that way. We will say, "if I had the money, I would...." We can be philanthropic by working together for the things we want to change in our own communities. If we are not investing, we don't have a voice in what happens for our people. Our tagline is "helping the diaspora help itself." We have the means to work together and give together to make meaningful change. Sometimes it means just giving the cost of a pair of designer shoes, a month's gym membership, a tank of gas, and in mass we can make change for our own community.

Learn more about the Foundation for the African Diaspora at

Story submitted by Valaida Fullwood
Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida brings a mix of unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer, creative consultant and project strategist. She is a founding member of Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists and author of “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists.” On Twitter, follow @ValaidaF and @BlkGivesBackCLT.

Photo credits: F4AD and Art of Exposure Photography

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