National Minority Health Month (NMHM) ended in April, but there is no greater time to raise awareness about health disparities that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority groups than the present. This year’s awareness month was filled with calls to action related to health education and early detection, with a specific focus on the theme “Give Your Community A Boost,” to express the continued importance of COVID-19 vaccination and boosters. However, I would like to admonish my peers to a step further by activating charitable contributions to organizations that advance research and close the health equity gap.
I wouldn’t ask anyone to do what I am not willing to do myself, so I want to start by providing a tangible example of how I have been able to take the profits of my marketing and events agency and use them for causes that I care about. Now, I am biased when it comes to the type of healthcare charities I would like to support. Although I did not pursue my intended degree in medicine and opted for entrepreneurship, my affinity for it has never left.
Let’s be clear, the leading causes of death in the African American community are health-related. Funding these causes actually advance research and directly address challenges associated with health equity. Let me also say that I am not naive to the systematic racism that narrates the experiences of Black people who participate in research. My agency’s current giving efforts include the lead gift ($100,000) for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Dr. Rudolph Jackson Campaign, which honors the valiant efforts of the first African American doctor at St. Jude who was on staff during the Civil Rights era. Not only are we giving, but we are committed to getting others to come alongside this work. Dr. Jackson’s research contributions to sickle cell disease, a common genetic disorder that impacts 1 out of every 365 Black or African American births, continue to pave the way for sickle cell researchers today.
We are also doubling down on our service to local charities that have a specific focus on impacting the lives of members of the Black community. I want to be firm that a $100,000 contribution as a millennial, given the amassed student loan debt, is nearly impossible. But please don’t tell me that you can’t forgo a list of indulgences — designer bags, Starbucks, subscriptions, a few trips, etc. — to dig a little deeper.
Even as I pull our collective coattail, there is also some ownership on charities to do better in their fundraising efforts. As the Chief Marketing Officer of our agency, I can list dozens of organizations that miss the moment to effectively target millennials. The stereotype of our lack of giving creates a belief that we are not charitable at all. This is a misnomer. Could we do better? Absolutely. However, statistically speaking, millennials and minorities are open to giving to charities that they trust (keyword being, trust). Approximately 84% of all millennials give to charity, with an average of $481 across three organizations each year. In 2020, almost 50% of Black Americans expressed a desire to be approached by more charities.
The bottom line is that millennials and communities of color are both willing and able to engage in philanthropy, perhaps to a much higher degree than organizations believe. However, charitable organizations must be willing to be accountable to those donors when it comes to addressing health disparities and specific healthcare in their communities. This is exactly why I support St. Jude. Over 30% of its patients are Black, and the data shows that cancer survival rates are equal across racial lines. This is a sharp contrast to the general population, where Black people have the worst outcomes and survival rates of all ethnic groups. What does this show us? Equal access to care must be a focal point for charities that are seeking minority philanthropy. Additionally, these organizations must intentionally seek to understand nuances that exist between various ethnic groups when it comes to medical treatment, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach, which usually further perpetuates health disparities.
Believe me, there are enough causes for us all to be regular donors. However, coming out of a pandemic that caused the traumatic loss of so many in the minority community, philanthropic efforts that focus on disrupting healthcare barriers and promoting health equity are imperative. The overall physical and mental health wellness of minority communities continues to be at stake. You’re welcome to join the Dr. Jackson campaign with me or identify your own cause. Either way, let’s live up to the trailblazers that we are and transform communities for the better by using philanthropy.