Baobá Fund: The Brazilian Experience of ED to Promote Racial Equity

Contributed by Selma Moreira, Executive Director, Baobá Fund for Racial Equity

Promoting racial equity is one of the main challenges of the 21st century: now it is the time to put an end to injustices perpetuated by the past centuries that keep a significant portion of humanity in the margins of the society.

In the case of Brazil, this challenge is even more important: Afro-Brazilians correspond to 55.8% of the population and are systematically left behind in education, healthcare, security, quality of life, representativeness and memory. The lack of racial equity is undoubtedly one of the main factors for the country's low human development indexes and its faltering economic trajectory.

It is in this context that the Baobá Fund emerged, almost ten years ago, as a legacy of the Kellogg Foundation’s years of investments. Through a wide consultation with the Brazilian Black movement, it was found that the main gap faced by these organizations and collectives was the lack of a sustainable financing mechanism, since they reflect the scarcity of resources that affects the entire Afro- Brazilians.

Since then, the Baobá Fund has mobilized people and resources in Brazil and abroad exclusively in the name of racial equity for the Afro-Brazilian population.

Our work focuses on four programmatic areas of investment as crucial to overcome the obstacles that prevent racial equity in Brazil: life with dignity (which includes health promotion, violence prevention, marrons community rights, among others), education, economic development, communication and memory. From 2014 to 2019, Baobá invested approximately 10.2 million reais (US $1.9 million), not counting resources invested in emergency actions to combat the coronavirus, and impacted more than 100 thousand lives across the country.

Members of governance and staff of Baoba Fund for Racial Equity

In order to achieve these results, we count on partnerships to make donations for projects and, mainly, on our endowment. This is what allows us to act quickly in moments like the coronavirus pandemic, when in a few weeks we were able to donate R$ 900 thousand (US $169,000), between our own resources and donations, to support initiatives to prevent contamination among the most vulnerable populations, directly or indirectly impacting 18 thousand people and 1.2 thousand families. It also guarantees the sustainability necessary to keep the actions in the programmatic areas that we chose to act.

The initial impetus for our endowment was given by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, which contributed with resources and committed itself to a matchfunding process by which it provides three reais for each real we raise within Brazil and two reais for each real raised in other countries. But the longevity of our endowment depends on other allies.

The equivalency determination (ED) was the first step - and a crucial step - for the constitution of this endowment. It is a complex process, but fundamental to our work, as it allows us access to international donors committed to fighting racism and who are aware of the scale of the challenge in Brazil, where the culture of philanthropy and donations is still incipient, mainly for the construction of endowments. It is also a tool for a long-term relationship with international donors, since it is a qualification that can be renewed annually, and which perfectly matches the mission of our endowment, which is to ensure long-term financial sustainability.

ED has been used by donors, such as the Kellogg Foundation, Ford Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase. For them, as for other donors, ED is a guarantee of governance and transparency in the process of transferring resources.

Unfortunately, few Black organizations are able to receive funds through ED and this is also one of the reasons why the Baobá Fund has developed the capacity to receive resources through it. By strengthening itself, Baobá can, as a fund to promote racial equity, strengthen other Black organizations' capacities, in addition to individual and Black leadership. It can contribute to the institutional development of the Black movement that, in the face of scarce resources, favors field action.

We can also share our knowledge and experience with other Black organizations that want to use this tool to access international donors. However, above all, ED is what will allow us to win new allies outside Brazil for the cause of racial equity in our country. All social and economic indicators prove the urgency of this cause in Brazil. And the time is now: we cannot wait another century to end the injustices of structural racism.

Black lives matter for everybody, and if social justice and equity are in the heart of the philanthropic, we need more allies working with funders and social movement to build another world and to build justice in societies which preserve lives and dignity, which preserve and highlight Black Lives Matter.

We look forward to building upon our work in order to promote a better world.

This guest post if by Selma Moreira, executive director of the Baobá Fund for Racial Equity.

Top photo: Members of governance and staff of Baobá and Brazilian politician, feminist, and human rights activist Marielle Franco's family members at a program launch event. 

All images used with permission of Baobá ©2020.