GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The Piedmont Triad is full of generous people. Every week we tell you about a grant or donation to do something that makes our community better. Those are made possible by philanthropy. Simply put, philanthropy is a big deal here. But misconceptions have kept participation low in some parts of the community. One group is making a big effort to change that.
“Part of our education process has been to share with them that being a donor, or giver, or philanthropist is not just for the wealthy,” Mae Douglas said.
She grew up in east Greensboro off of East Florida Street near the new Hayes-Taylor YMCA. She attended UNCG, moved away and had a successful career in corporate America. Since retiring, she’s been on a mission.
“When I returned to Greensboro, it was very important to me to ensure that other Black boys and girls have as many opportunities as I did.”
She’s the lead volunteer for the BIG Equity Fund. “BIG” stands for Black Investments in Greensboro.
“There are a lot of organizations that do wonderful work in terms of supplying the basic needs that people have,” she said. “But that is not our purpose. We are very clear that our purpose is policy change and systemic change to close the gaps of disparities in our communities.”
The group has three priorities: addressing educational disparities, health disparities, and growing small businesses in the city’s Black community, particularly east Greensboro.
“I think given the demographic shift here and for our community to continue to thrive and grow as well as to be an attractive place where organizations want to do business, I think we have to focus on east Greensboro,” she said.
FOX8 first told you about the fund last summer. They had raised $300,000 in the quiet phase and were launching the public campaign to raise a $3 million endowment.
“We’re approximately halfway through,” Douglas shared, joyfully.
“The BIG Equity Fund, I have to say, is one of the more extraordinary things I’ve seen created in Greensboro — mostly because of the people involved in it and the passion they have in creating it,” Walker Sanders said.
Sanders is the president of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. He says this is different from anything he has seen before. It’s a Black-led effort looking at assets in the Black community and investing back into the Black community.
“That message has been inspiring not just to the Black community, but to the white community as well,” he said. “Many communities around the country are saying, ‘What are y’all doing in Greensboro?'”
And he says it has opened the door to some overdue conversations.
“Obviously I’m a white guy, and a white guy having this conversation, a lot of people are not comfortable with it,” he said. “But we need to get to a place in this community that people recognize that there are white folks and there are Black folks, but we’re in the same community. We have the same dreams. We want the same successes. We want the same aspirations for our children. We want to see them grow up and be successful. But many in our community don’t have access to the same things that others do. Until we address that, we as an overall community will never reach our full potential.”
“What we’re trying to do is just reignite what has already existed and share with people that we have the opportunity to invest in our own community versus the expectations that others will do it, or versus asking them to do it,” Douglas said.
They’ve raised more than $1.5 million since launching last year, and all that has been done virtually. They plan to have some in-person events starting in September. In the meantime, you can find out about how to get involved by checking out their website.