IPA Blog

Indiana Blacks in Philanthropy Members Share Insights into Making Equity Real

Thursday, August 19, 2021
Indiana Blacks in Philanthropy Meets with Susan Taylor Batten, CEO of ABFE

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Black Philanthropy Month (BPM), and the theme is “TENacity: Making Equity Real.” Primary aims of BPM are informing, involving, inspiring, and investing in Black philanthropic leadership to strengthen African-American and African-descent giving in all its forms.

To help elevate local leaders this BPM, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance spoke with three members of Indiana Blacks in Philanthropy (IBIP) to discover their inspirations. They also shared thoughts on the progression of equity over the past year, as well as ways to better support Black nonprofit staff.

Tell us about someone in your life that inspired your interest in philanthropy and community engagement. 

Tina Gridiron, ACT Center for Equity in Learning: The Higher Education DEI work of Edgar Beckham at the Ford Foundation was instrumental in supporting the growth of African American Studies programs across the U.S. and in furthering research designed to highlight the academic and social benefit to all (including whites) from a more diverse higher education student body. His comprehensive work served as a blueprint for what collaborative grantmaking is all about.

Erica Fizer, Legacy Foundation: I have two older sisters who inspire me to give back and stay active in my community. They are both mothers and professionals, who I’ve watched take on leadership roles to raise money for causes as well as host events that bring community members together. In church, career, and family—they lead with a servant heart. They probably would not consider themselves philanthropists, but that is exactly what they are.

Tyrone Spann, Asset Funders Network: Willis Bright was someone that opened a number of doors for me within the philanthropic field here in Indiana. He went out of his way to introduce me to a number of African Americans who were working in the field here in the state. This helped me tremendously in not only providing a number of role models for me to learn from but also how to be an effective Black Philanthropic leader.


Black Philanthropy Month’s 2021 theme is TENacity: Making Equity Real. Over this past year, how have you seen funding equity progress?

Tina Gridiron: It has been exciting to see how many foundations are willing to use the terms ‘anti-racism’ and ‘racial equity’ in their grantmaking over this past year. The intentionality and transparency of the racial equity work has been stronger this year as compared to any other year in my recent memory.

Erica Fizer: We are seeing wide-scale initiatives from Ford Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, MacArthur, and other large philanthropic institutions tackling racial inequities. Also, we’ve recently seen grantmaking from big corporations directed toward organizations focused on racial justice. I think major gifts and national attention are important for addressing systemic issues. From another angle, but just as important, I have seen how crowdfunding by smaller, Black-led groups is raising a lot of money and removing some of the barriers imposed by traditional philanthropy. Overall, the field is starting to realize the importance of supporting solutions that come from within the Black community.

Tyrone Spann: I have seen an increase both from the public and private sectors in their willingness to not only provide resources toward equity initiatives, but also be willing to make internal changes that—up until recently—they have either been very reluctant towards or outright refused to do. By being open to publicly put their names and reputations behind supporting equity, this provided new opportunities to mobilize the access to additional resources and supporters to make long-term substantial changes that are long overdue. 


In what ways can philanthropy better support the health and wellbeing of Black nonprofit staff who are carrying the weight of providing significantly increased support and services to their communities over this past year?

Tina Gridiron: Giving Black nonprofit staff professional development support and capacity building support are essential to the long-term health and wellbeing of their work. Also, supporting a balance of both qualitative and quantitative analysis as evidence of effectiveness and progress are healthy considerations as we continue to address the weight carried by so many nonprofit leaders. The voices of Black leaders and the Black populations they serve must be prioritized as we build on the work of the past year.

Erica Fizer: I was attending a virtual conference earlier this year where a presenter asked, “Wouldn’t it be radical if funders would give grants to Black nonprofit staff to take time off?” There are countless articles and blogs about the importance of self-care and preserving our mental health, but there is little support for it. Black-led organizations are systemically underfunded, while carrying the burden of serving the communities most in need. I think there should be more grants for staff retreats, access to mental health services, or other activities that allow Black staff to refill their cups. Reducing burnout is an important part of an organization’s sustainability. Of course, unrestricted grants are important for allowing organizations led by people of color to use grant money in the ways they most need it. Also, I think supporting Black Philanthropic Networks like IBIP helps professionals in the field build relationships and share resources.  

Tyrone Spann: Be willing to provide capacity building and general support dollars to organizations that are not directly tied to program operation. These dollars will allow organizations to provide the type of support that their staff needs in order to be more effective in their work without having to mask it under the framework of supporting another program/initiative. Funders should also be willing to have open conversations with their grantees to learn more about their operational and administrative needs. ThRough this type of dialogue, funders can begin to understand some of the barriers that these organizations are facing that are hampering their abilities to fully serve their communities.

Interested in learning more? Register now for Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Symposium October 6, or go here to find additional resources and stories collected by IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Indiana Blacks in Philanthropy (IBIP) is a group of leaders working within both the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. IBIP seeks to educate, empower, strengthen, and support the development of Blacks in Indiana's communities through philanthropy. 


About Our Contributers


Tina Gridiron, Vice President, ACT Center for Equity in Learning

Tina, a leader in higher education and philanthropy, joined ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning in 2019 and will now focus her efforts on enhancing the work of the Center with its external partners, and shaping ACT’s broader efforts to close gaps in equity, opportunity and achievement in education and the workforce.

Previously, Tina served as vice president of philanthropic partnerships for the Center. She is founder and lead consultant of TLG Solutions, a consulting firm that increases the impact and influence of organizations promoting the public good. Prior to that, Tina led grant initiatives as an officer and director for Lumina Foundation where she worked extensively with community colleges, minority-serving institutions and regional comprehensive institutions. She has also served as the acting director of the Black Community Services Center at Stanford University. Tina holds a Master of Arts in higher education administration and a Master of Arts in sociology, both from Stanford, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. She currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.


Erica Fizer, Director of Marketing & Communications, Legacy Foundation Inc.

In her position at Legacy Foundation Inc.—the community foundation for Lake County, Indiana—Erica develops and implements strategy for all marketing activities to consistently articulate Legacy Foundation’s mission and engage new and current audiences. Erica has led marketing campaigns for county-wide and multi-county community outreach and fundraising initiatives, including regional Give-Days, multi-year matching gift campaigns, and county-wide initiatives to collect resident input.

Erica received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Indiana University in Bloomington, a Graduate Certificate in nonprofit management and a Master of Public Administration in human services from Indiana University Northwest. She is an active member of her community, serving as Chair of Indiana Blacks in Philanthropy, Co-chair of Indiana Philanthropy Alliance’s Communications Peer Community and a member of the Merrillville Rotary Club.


Tyrone Spann, Indiana Program Officer, Asset Funders Network

Tyrone has over 22 years experience in the nonprofit and higher education fields in both the northwest Indiana region and Chicago, Illinois. Tyrone worked for the Foundations of East Chicago for 18 years managing their scholarship and grant programs. He also served as a consultant for Lake Area United Way and as the program director for the Gary Alumni Pathway for Students Organization. In addition, Tyrone worked at Ivy Tech Community College’s Lake County campus in the capacity of 21st Century Scholar Coordinator and Associate Director of Admissions.

Tyrone has served on the Board of Directors for several local and statewide nonprofit organizations including the Indiana Youth Institute, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, South Shore Arts and Community in Schools Lake County. Tyrone currently serves of the board for the ECIER Foundation and is the Board Chair for the Indiana Parenting Institute. Tyrone is the past chairman for the Indiana Blacks in Philanthropy. He was selected to be a member of the Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program, Class of 2009 – 2010, from the Association of Black Foundation Executives. Tyrone holds a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies from Florida A & M University and an Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

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