Black Philanthropy and National Parks: Giving Green to Give Black




Black philanthropy, national parks, stewardship


Philanthropic partners have always played a critical role in the management and maintenance of national parks in the U.S. Cultivating strong relationships with the communities of color, particularly African Americans, has been a major challenge for the National Park Service (NPS). As ethnic populations increase in share of the U.S. total population, the lack of diversity in NPS partnerships will be increasingly problematic for national parks funding and stewardship. Building philanthropic partnerships with African American audiences will be critical to the long-term sustainability of the NPS. While philanthropy is present and strong in the Black community, further research is needed to ascertain how the NPS can inspire and sustain philanthropic actions among Black donors in support of national parks. This paper presents an overview of the literature on Black philanthropy and the findings from focus group interviews to understand how African Americans perceive their philanthropy and the ways they connect their giving to national parks. The focus group interviews occurred between February and June 2018 in Raleigh, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; and Washington, DC. Participants included mostly African American donors who were actively involved in community foundations, philanthropic associations, and giving circles. The study found that Black philanthropy is embedded in the community life; measured not only in money, but also in time and talent; and, driven by race and humanity. Participants also noted that a general lack of awareness as an important reason why they had not considered giving in support of national parks in the past. They suggested that making more visible the Black history of national parks would likely increase African American donors’ interests and stewardship. We suggest the NPS broaden its lens in forming strategies for connecting to Black donors (and audiences in general). Findings in this report present unique opportunities for the NPS to cultivate enduring and meaningful relationships with African American communities in support of national parks. Specifically, the NPS should leverage Black philanthropy to build partnerships, recognize the importance of social empowerment, expand cultural memory as part of the NPS visitor experience, and build on the concept of giving circles.

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Author Biographies

Aby Sene-Harper, Clemson University

Assistant Professor

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Clemson University

Myron Floyd, North Carolina State University

Dean, College of Nature Resources

North Carolina State University

Akiebia S. Hicks, Clemson University

PhD student

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management





Regular Papers