Boston Basics Campaign

Starting from Birth

The Black Philanthropy Fund

Members of the Black Philanthropy Fund established a Donor Advised Fund at the Boston Foundation as a rallying point around which to focus and magnify their giving. Fund Trustee and former Abt Associates CEO Wendell Knox says, “We felt the Foundation would be the right place not only to manage our money but to develop a relationship—as a funding partner, a programmatic partner, a thought partner.”

Boston Basics

When members of the Black Philanthropy Fund (BPF) assemble, expect an energy surge. These passionate philanthropists exemplify the power of financial capital combined with social capital in pursuit of a goal. 

It began when a core group, who knew one another professionally, began discussing how to most effectively and meaningfully give back. They all believed that education had put them in a position to give, so they narrowed their focus to that—still an infinitely broad category! In researching the field, they consulted experts, among them Harvard Achievement Gap Initiative Director Dr. Ronald Ferguson. Knowing that 80 percent of brain development happens before age three, Ferguson said that the “achievement gap” was established long before kids arrived at pre-K. He asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to prevent the gap in the first place than remediate it later?” 

He’d codified five behaviors, or basics, in interacting with children that boost their language abilities, reasoning and confidence—starting from birth (see The Fund’s members immediately saw the potential, identified partners, and launched a citywide initiative: The Boston Basics Campaign. The BPF pays for materials and the partners establish connections across the city with health centers, child care centers, hospitals, churches, and others, even barbershops. BPF Trustee Wendell Knox explains, “The strategy is to mobilize the existing infrastructure of the city.” The overlapping skills, connections, interests, and resources of the BPF’s members are the rocket fuel for Boston Basics. Says BPF Chair Jeffrey Howard, “It’s almost like we lived out our careers to do this work.”