Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Celebrating 8 Years of Black Philanthropy

BlackGivesBack signs off after 8 years

Dear Readers,

I created eight years ago as a hobby that grew from my love of Black philanthropy. My goal was to uplift, inform and inspire Black philanthropy. From sharing stories of Black philanthropists to nonprofits striving to improve Black communities, it has been a joy to introduce and spotlight these good works and to show that African-Americans are not just passive recipients of philanthropy, but major benefactors. A lot has been accomplished in the field and I am grateful that I played a role. But now is the time for me to move on to the next chapter.

Today marks the end of the blog

This was a very difficult decision, but I’m excited about the possibilities to further promote and inspire Black philanthropy in other ways.

Readers often ask me if is a full-time job. It isn’t. I’m also often asked if the blog makes a profit. It doesn’t. I work a full-time job during the day, blog at night, and run a successful giving circle, Black Benefactors in Washington, DC. This leaves little time for me to do the things I cherish the most, such as spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature, and investing in self-care and my personal well-being.

So I thought, how can I continue the work of in other ways? I have some ideas but will need your help. Please take a few minutes to complete my survey HERE. Your responses will help me to determine how I can best continue BlackGivesBack in the future.

I’m proud of the work I’ve accomplished through this platform and am thankful for all of the wonderful people I’ve met who are giving back to their communities in big ways. THANK YOU for reading! For those of you who shared a post or story, sent an email with words of encouragement or reached out to help, it was greatly appreciated.

I’d like to give a special thank you to my contributors over the years who helped me to share stories of Black giving in their communities: Akira Barclay, Valaida Fullwood, Sandra Davis, Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew, Tokiwa Smith and Lisa Brathwaite.  They not only became contributors, but friends who shared a similar passion, vision and support for the cause. Also much appreciation goes to media outlets that amplified BGB's work (,,, NPR and Ebony magazine); and to everyone who shared their stories and testimonies on You made this journey possible!

Here’s how you can support my work and Black philanthropy:

  • Join BlackGivesBack’s Linkedin group where you can share news, opportunities, events and resources.
  • Support “The Soul of Philanthropy” tour spearheaded by long-time contributor Valaida Fullwood. The traveling exhibit encompasses rich black-and-white images from the award-winning book Giving Back:  A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists.   The tour's next stop is North Carolina State University in February 2016 followed by Grambling State University, Tougaloo College and University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Explore bringing the exhibit to your community at

I hope that has inspired you to give and think about how you can make an even greater impact in your community and the world.

But before I leave, one last story! Four months following the end of Black Philanthropy Month (BPM), the BPM Architects are pleased to release “Black Philanthropy Month 2015 Report for Our Community of Stakeholders.” BPM is designed as a multimedia campaign to inform, inspire and invest in Black philanthropic leadership. High-impact events, media stories, service projects and giving opportunities characterize the annual campaign.

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This year’s focal concept was A Season of Change—a timely assertion that Black giving matters. News reports and personal experiences of racial discord, disturbing shootings, unsettling indignities and pervasive inequities serve as reminders of why traditions of giving and collective action for human rights and social change have been vital in Black communities for centuries. As a month-long campaign, BPM 2015 comprised activities—online and in communities—to inspire people to give back in smarter and more strategic ways and transform one another’s lives for the better.

Read the full report here and visit the website at to stay updated on Black Philanthropy Month 2016.

Yours in giving,


Monday, December 7, 2015

Black-Owned Philanthropic Special Events Company Celebrates 10 Years

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Dani Johnson (right), founder of Special Gathering with Marcus Littles of Frontline Solutions at the 11th
Annual Community Investment Network Conference in October 2015.

Event planner Dani Johnson has a unique focus for her special events company – philanthropy. In fact, it’s her sole focus. Launched in 2005, Special Gathering is a national leader and expert in philanthropic mission-driven and culturally competent events, and strategic branding campaigns. Her client list reads like a who’s who in philanthropy: Annie E. Casey Foundation, Associated Black Charities, National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), ABFE (Association of Black Foundation Executives) and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, among many others. In October, Special Gathering coordinated the Community Investment Network’s 11th annual conference in the Washington, DC area that convened giving circles of color, grassroots philanthropists, funders and social justice activists.

Read on to learn what inspired Dani to create Special Gathering and her five tips for hosting a successful philanthropic event.

What was your inspiration for starting a philanthropic focused special events company?

I launched Special Gathering while coordinating a conference in 2005 for a major philanthropic community investment firm. After the conference, I reflected on my experience as a planner and quickly realized that philanthropy has tremendous potential to become more effective if the philanthropic community were more organized in presenting an equitable and inclusive experience – no matter your class, economic status, race or cultural identity. When you create a space that allows for collective community sharing and collaboration, you’re more likely to receive a greater response.

How is planning for a philanthropic event different from planning other events? What unique skill set do you bring?

Special Gathering exemplifies Social Entrepreneurship in the highest regard. We encourage our clients to adopt our principles of utilizing an event as a strategic step in the process of conveying an organization’s mission and vision. Our core approach allows the event to project who the organization is and what the organization is about. We work closely with our clients to develop a strategy and brand that is equitable and inclusive, and helps clients identify strategies that offer the most impact and life-changing results.

Youve been in business for ten years. Is there an event that stands out as the most memorable?

My most memorable event was the Maryland Legal Aid Centennial Celebration that featured guest speaker, Mr. Harry Belafonte. It was an amazing experience to take part in their re-branding and event strategy that supported the organization’s goal of incorporating their message as part of the milestone occasion. Maryland Legal Aid is historically known as a statewide non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal services to low-income and vulnerable residents. Being a part of the creative process to help introduce their new message, “Advancing Human Rights and Justice for All” to the world was absolutely amazing.

What are important tips for hosting a successful philanthropic event?

Special Gathering is guided by 5 tips.

Tip #1: Be wise. Develop a solid event design that includes a revenue and brand strategy.

Tip #2: Have real expectations for your event. Under promise and over deliver is the best way to execute.

Tip #3: Lead with focus. Plan your event through the lens of the mission and vision of your organization.

Tip #4: Foster key connections. Events build your brand promise and strengthen your donor relationships.

Tip #5: Be creative. Infuse a mix of fundraising tools: ticket sales, sponsorships and auction, just to name a few.

How can readers get in contact with you?

Readers can visit my website at and contact me via email at and phone, 410-685-7664. Follow Special Gathering on Facebook and Twitter at @eventimpossible.

Photo Credit: Gee James/Capitol Media USA