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NaTika Rowles | Executive Director

In this interview, Ruth Baum Bigus of KC Cares talks with NaTika Rowles, the executive director of the Black Community Fund (BCF). The BCF is a philanthropic organization that has been investing in the African-American community of Kansas City for over 40 years. The fund has provided more than $4.5 million to over 200 nonprofit organizations, focusing on areas such as education, human services, arts, culture, humanities, and faith organizations. NaTika discusses the fund’s shift in focus during the pandemic, its innovative grant-making strategies, and its commitment to supporting black-led, black-serving nonprofits.

visit them here: blackcommunityfund.org

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What is the Black Community Fund’s mission?
  2. How has the Black Community Fund adapted its strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  3. What types of organizations does the Black Community Fund support?
  4. How does the Black Community Fund’s grant-making process work?
  5. How can individuals or organizations contribute to the Black Community Fund?

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KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, tells the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and connects them with the community.  

Produced by Charitable Communications 

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Transcript:

00:00:01:06 – 00:00:23:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
Welcome to KC Cares. We’re Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, and we’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the nonprofit and profit communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play.

00:00:54:16 – 00:01:22:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
This KC Care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. www.Kauffman dot org. I’m Ruth Baum Bigus with the insight of philanthropic leaders in our community, the black community Fund was established as a fund of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation by the Hall Family Foundation. Its purpose was to invest in the African-American community of Kansas City to meet critical needs.

00:01:22:21 – 00:01:49:28
Ruth Baum Bigus
Now, 40 years later, the Black Community Fund lifts others, providing more than 4.5 million to over 200 nonprofit organizations. During that time, organizations focused on education, human services, arts, culture, humanities and faith organizations. Now, Teeka Royals is executive director of the Black Community Fund, and we welcome her as we dig into the work of this organization that’s making change in our community.

00:01:50:08 – 00:01:52:10
Ruth Baum Bigus
The ticket, so great to have you.

00:01:52:12 – 00:01:54:13
NaTika Rowles
Thank you, Ruth. Thanks for having me.

00:01:55:05 – 00:02:23:21
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, in full disclosure to our audience, we last had someone from the Black Community Fund pre-pandemic, and I would bet by a year or two, maybe before then. So it’s been some time and we’ve been watching around her social media and everything. You all are active, vibrant, doing all kinds of things. Bring us up to speed, though. Give us an overview of the fund and your focus.

00:02:24:22 – 00:03:03:03
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So I’ve been with the fund. You said the last time you spoke to someone was pre-pandemic. So I think I came along during the pandemic in 2020. And up until then, our fund was focused on grant making scholarships to black students, convening around critical issues that concern the black community. We also did a little bit of convening around the arts and cultural events as well, and I’ve added a little thing that we do, which is mobilizing black philanthropy and communities of color.

00:03:03:03 – 00:03:48:22
NaTika Rowles
So that’s pretty much what our focus has been. We honed in on targeting grassroots, black led black serving non-profits and supporting them, and the need for that has always been around and we’ve always done that. But after during 2020 and all of the racial unrest and social injustices that were going on and living through a pandemic, our board decided that the disparities were this so blatant in the black community and what the needs were that we we just drove into that and started supporting smaller, grassroot and nonprofits.

00:03:48:23 – 00:04:09:27
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, that’s an interesting pivot and very insightful of a board. So, so much to dove into here. I want to go back to what the board did, but I want to let the audience know. And you came on board in the pandemic?

00:04:10:02 – 00:04:11:00
NaTika Rowles
Yeah.

00:04:11:00 – 00:04:19:05
Ruth Baum Bigus
And you share a little bit what that was like and how you weathered that. Oh, my gosh. Huge storm.

00:04:20:00 – 00:04:53:25
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So transition is hard. So not only were we transitioning with a new executive director, we were transition, transitioning the needs of the black community as well. So it was difficult, but it was a thing that needed to happen. So for me, we just kind of I just kind of took it as a way to renew, reimagine, just kind of rethink.

00:04:54:03 – 00:05:20:15
NaTika Rowles
But DCF is and what it was and how to stay relevant and those things. So we were literally just trying things. We wanted to do philanthropy different. We knew that we had they had been talking about this. As I said, I came on in 2020. They’ve been doing this for they’ve been supporting, you know, black led, black serving nonprofits.

00:05:20:29 – 00:05:43:23
NaTika Rowles
So we started to rethink what what we could do, how we can take the burden off of the nonprofit, how can we show up in a more trust based philanthropy space? You know, that term was thrown around a lot. How can we focus more on equity? How can we not just allow people to jump through hoops for money?

00:05:44:13 – 00:06:11:15
NaTika Rowles
Because we really just wanted to help in a way that during 2020 it wasn’t happening there. These are the nonprofits that we were serving, didn’t have access. They didn’t have the banking relationships. They didn’t have the social networking to access funds. So in 2020 and yeah, it was difficult because the world was on fire, right? So yeah, we were working from home, you know, that was introduced to the board.

00:06:12:07 – 00:06:36:19
NaTika Rowles
We had to build relationships and you know, we still had a job to do. So even the scholarships that we were giving out that year, that was difficult because they weren’t on campus. There. There, the the things that they had planned to do were shifting. So we had to be, you know, pretty flexible in all of our giving in that way.

00:06:36:29 – 00:07:03:17
NaTika Rowles
But I think the thing that that just kind of turned everything around for us was that the board knew all of this stuff was going on in the world. Right. And so statements were going out. Everybody focused on the equity statement, on diversity, justice. So we put a statement out. But the board was adamant about what are we going to do beyond this statement?

00:07:03:18 – 00:07:39:16
NaTika Rowles
We need to put some money to this statement. So we literally just wrote checks to nonprofits that were serving the black community and voting, registration, housing and food insecurity as well. And we granted out $100,000 that summer, no grant competition, no cycle, no application, literally. Here’s a check for the work that you’ve been doing and the work that we need you to continue to do during this pandemic, during this time, you know, of of racial and social unrest in our country.

00:07:39:17 – 00:08:13:17
Ruth Baum Bigus
So so the board really drove this change with you, with the leadership on land, living on Zoom or Microsoft teams or whatever. We all lived on and lived through. Now that we’ve kind of come out of it, like come out of the pandemic, let’s say that I, I don’t know that the rest of the world has changed tremendously, but how are you now moving forward with that kind of sea change that started during the pandemic?

00:08:14:18 – 00:08:42:08
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So I mean, we had to shift a little bit, you know, for a couple of years we had to do our events online that was new and different. Nothing that, you know, no anybody else had to do. Everybody was doing this. But our focus is still there. We are committed to serving nonprofits that are serving the black community in a way that in a in a way that’s, I would say, more innovative.

00:08:43:10 – 00:09:05:27
NaTika Rowles
We’re open to how we’re making grants now. It’s not just an application. Last year we held a workshop where we paid nonprofits to come to the workshop. We did a pitch competition. So what it did was and it may be a new because I don’t know any better, I’m like, Yeah, we can do that. Let’s do it. Let’s try it, you know?

00:09:06:18 – 00:09:30:18
NaTika Rowles
Okay, you did that last. Okay, let’s do something different. And they were willing to to allow me to be flexible with with ideas as well. So we literally just created this think tank and we said, what? What don’t we like about philanthropy right now? Let’s just not do that. So what does that look like? Oh, let’s try this.

00:09:31:17 – 00:09:55:24
NaTika Rowles
At the end of the day, we helped fund a lot of smaller nonprofits that would not have gotten funding if we hadn’t stepped in. At the end of the day, those nonprofits went on to bigger, larger relationships with foundations and secured larger dollars over multiple years. And that’s what we wanted to do. Right. So we’re continuing in that.

00:09:55:24 – 00:10:02:04
NaTika Rowles
We have some amazing things coming up in order to continue that work in the black community.

00:10:02:25 – 00:10:04:06
Ruth Baum Bigus
You’ve created a bridge.

00:10:05:12 – 00:10:05:23
NaTika Rowles
Okay.

00:10:06:26 – 00:10:35:06
Ruth Baum Bigus
That’s what that’s what it sounds like. So part of KC cares focus, too. We love all nonprofits, but it’s it’s an extra warm feeling when we can bring a smaller nonprofit that maybe doesn’t have that footprint. And it sounds like you are kind of focused on some of those folks that sometimes are that small voice that doesn’t get heard or there’s so much other talking in the world that that they miss out.

00:10:35:06 – 00:10:45:25
Ruth Baum Bigus
So congratulations to you all. All right. You mentioned all these new insightful things. Share with our audience a little bit about your areas of focus and the kind of new things that you are doing.

00:10:46:12 – 00:11:16:24
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So I’ll talk about the grant making syntax kind of of what people now they know us for before it was scholarships and we really wanted to shift that. Now we’re like we do a lot of things and sounding the alarm on those things. So with our grant making. I think last year we would probably grind it out over $200,000 to grassroots nonprofits, black led, black serving, right.

00:11:18:06 – 00:11:54:07
NaTika Rowles
The cool thing about that was we revamped our application. It’s pretty simple. It’s pretty straightforward. And as I said earlier, we don’t want people to have to jump through hoops to obtain our dollars. Right. We looked at that. We also looked at different ways that we can engage grantees, especially those that don’t have the social networks and don’t know may not have funds to invest in professional development or resource development.

00:11:54:21 – 00:12:32:24
NaTika Rowles
So as I mentioned before, we created what we call the Vision Workshop. We invited 40 nonprofits to come to this workshop to receive training on storytelling, marketing and social media outcome measurement. Right. And it was got them in a room. The feedback that we received was that you see us Black Community Fund, we’re not alone. We’re out here doing this work and you haven’t forgotten about us because we understand that most of these nonprofits are not paying themselves.

00:12:33:01 – 00:13:00:16
NaTika Rowles
They don’t have the budgets to invest in salaries. Most of them are volunteer. We decided that we were going to give them money to come. So every nonprofit that came received a $500 check at the end. And then we were like, Well, how can we give them some, you know, some more money? It’d be great. So at the end of that workshop, they were invited to pitch our enter a pitch pitch competition.

00:13:01:06 – 00:13:25:02
NaTika Rowles
And it was just like you and I are talking, Ruth They just talked to two people about their nonprofit. And then we decided right then and there who was going to get some money. There wasn’t an application process. So the next day, that evening, we invited these nonprofits to our vision gala. It was a gala to just celebrate Black philanthropy.

00:13:25:11 – 00:14:00:25
NaTika Rowles
It was held during Black Philanthropy Month, which is the national recognized time during August. Every August. So we invited them to come to this gala. And at the gala we made the announcement, the winners of the pitch competition, and we granted eight nonprofits $64,000. And so that was pretty exciting. I love to give away money. One of the one of the nonprofits that I don’t know anybody who’s as excited as Attica about giving money away.

00:14:00:25 – 00:14:34:14
NaTika Rowles
So that’s what we’re doing with grant making. If I can talk a little bit about the scholarships this year, our 40th year, our anniversary year, we did grant 40 scholarships to black students to continue their education. And this is like adult learners, graduate school of high school. Yes, community college, what have you. So 40 of those kiddos are young black students.

00:14:34:24 – 00:15:04:07
NaTika Rowles
I call them kiddos and in a sum of $176,000. Now, that may not seem like a lot of money. And we are a small fund. We’re relatively small, a small funder. But that’s that scholarship. Most of those scholarships were in the sum of $5,000. So that’s that’s a game changer for most of these students, right? Yeah. So and we were pretty adamant about you know, that that amount.

00:15:04:15 – 00:15:41:00
NaTika Rowles
Now we do have some scholarships that were around $1,000 for a student. But overall, so the $176,000 in education for black students. So I’d say we’re trying to chip at that. But financial burden gap there and then convening around critical issues. So we’re in conversations with some community leaders about what we want to talk about, what we want to bring people around issues facing the black community.

00:15:41:10 – 00:16:03:18
NaTika Rowles
Where do you on that? In a very sensitive way because we’re not doing this work. We’re not programing. So we’re talking to these organizations that are boots on the ground. They are in proximity with what’s going on in the black community and to see what do we need to talk about right. Or what what do we need to lift that?

00:16:03:18 – 00:16:38:06
NaTika Rowles
What do we need to give a voice like KC cares? What platform do we need to create for you? So we did create a podcast last year, kind of been talking about it throughout the pandemic because why not? Everybody’s on line, right? That was one of my great ideas. So the podcast drop is this year, during our 40th year, and we just talked to leaders of nonprofits and some volunteers about, you know, volunteerism in the black community, affordable housing in the black community, community development, things like that.

00:16:39:00 – 00:16:50:12
NaTika Rowles
So I urge everyone to listen to that. Yeah. So and then now we’re inching up on our big event that’s coming up in a in the next month. Oh my God.

00:16:50:12 – 00:16:53:27
Ruth Baum Bigus
Is here is the panic.

00:16:55:23 – 00:17:17:20
NaTika Rowles
Yes. And we will be celebrating 40 years of giving. It’s our legacy gala. And here’s the thing, Ruth. We’ve been doing this for 40 years, right and right. Kind of been under the radar. So this gap, this this gala is to tell people week, this is what we’ve been doing and this is what we’re going to continue to do for the next 40 years.

00:17:17:20 – 00:17:39:27
NaTika Rowles
And we’re celebrating that. And then we want to invite people along for to mobilize their giving, to mobilize their philanthropy. Right. And we want to we want everybody to look at themselves as a philanthropist, especially black, because this is what we do. Right. So I’m excited. What’s going on?

00:17:39:27 – 00:17:49:27
Ruth Baum Bigus
Where is the best place for folks to go to find out what everything that you’re doing, find out about your event, look at your grant making opportunities, etc..

00:17:50:19 – 00:18:17:24
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So we do have a website in that black community find out or so you can definitely visit our website. We’re on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Our offices are out of the Greater Payne City Community Foundation on Broadway. You can pop in. Give me a call. Yeah. So there’s tons of ways to get in touch with us, but I would say our website is probably the easiest.

00:18:18:05 – 00:18:19:09
NaTika Rowles
And the social media.

00:18:21:04 – 00:18:41:28
Ruth Baum Bigus
And again, for full transparency, just disclosure. Folks that are not black or African-American, could they apply for grants if they’re serving the black community or really focused on, you know, black leadership, black, etc.? I think.

00:18:43:05 – 00:19:06:27
NaTika Rowles
Yeah, they can they can definitely apply and we prioritize black lives black survey. So what that means is that we may look at them more. We, we focus on that, right. But if there is a program that just happens to have a white area that’s serving the black community and serving them well, then they could definitely be funded.

00:19:06:27 – 00:19:31:09
NaTika Rowles
And if you look at some of our past grants, you would see that now that we have. So the focus is on serving the black community. What we found during 2020 and leading up to that was that a lot of black leaders, a lot of black professionals did not have access. And not only not only did they not have access.

00:19:31:09 – 00:19:52:10
NaTika Rowles
So there’s something real about when black people are being murdered in the street around you. Right. It’s hard to come to work that day. It’s it’s hard it’s hard to do the work that you know, that you love to do. It comes heavy. It becomes a wait. Sometimes. So our focus on black leaders is to care for them.

00:19:52:17 – 00:20:23:03
NaTika Rowles
Right. Is to let them know that we see you, that we’re here to support you, not only the work that you’re doing, but you as a person that you that they are valuable. Right. It’s not just it’s not just the work. It’s not just the programs. We know that the black community was hit hard during during that time and still really trying to process some of these things.

00:20:23:03 – 00:20:50:10
NaTika Rowles
I mean, the ebbs and flows of the social unrest, the racial unrest in our community affects black bodies. It just does. Right. So when we create a space for them to talk about capacity building, we’re also building camaraderie. I mean, most of those nonprofits are still in touch with each other. They meet I don’t even know they’re meeting.

00:20:50:10 – 00:21:10:00
NaTika Rowles
And they’re like, yeah, they built a mentorship. They built a group of people that that they can process with that are that they’re that’s in the trenches with them. So I think that’s great. That’s the focus on the black leaders.

00:21:11:17 – 00:21:24:23
Ruth Baum Bigus
Where today does the preponderance of your funds come from? You’re handing out you’re handing out money. So somewhere money’s got to be coming in, right? Somewhere.

00:21:27:25 – 00:22:01:04
NaTika Rowles
That’s a great question. I would say, um, for a while we’ve had a pretty substantial grant through the Kellogg Foundation that allowed us to do some pretty innovative work that Grant has now centered. So last year I will say that we received our largest gift from the Sanderlin Foundation a half a million dollar gift. And so but that’s the largest in 40 years.

00:22:01:04 – 00:22:41:08
NaTika Rowles
So, yeah, there’s some some private donations. We do we eat events and fundraising is not part of our resource development plan. And, and and I don’t know that that is a way that we will effectively raise funds. We have a philosophy of investing in the black community. And when we decided to do that in a radical way, like we did and we gave people started giving, well, yeah.

00:22:41:08 – 00:23:11:03
NaTika Rowles
So I don’t know. I mean, most people say you got to spend money to make money. I mean, that’s an entrepreneurship in business, but we have a mindset of whether we are supported or not. This is what the needed. So this is what we don’t do right. And having that mindset, that confidence that we are investing in the black community, people are on board with that.

00:23:11:14 – 00:23:23:28
NaTika Rowles
People want to be a part of that. It’s almost a sense of empowerment to be able to do that. So we have granted a lot of money in the past. Yeah.

00:23:24:17 – 00:23:25:02
Ruth Baum Bigus
Right.

00:23:25:22 – 00:23:55:02
NaTika Rowles
Right. A lot, almost as much as we’ve done in the past ten years. But we’ve also raised a lot of money in the past three years, more so than we’ve done in the past ten years of this fund. And that was by talking to folks like you, this platform that you have, inviting people to join us in philanthropy in a way that is relational, all alone, not transactional.

00:23:56:19 – 00:24:20:03
NaTika Rowles
And people are giving and have donors that are black leaders that are supporting us now. And that that says a lot to me. So, yeah, not an influx of funds. You know, we’re are still a funder that would welcome any donations, right? I have to say that.

00:24:20:27 – 00:24:23:23
Ruth Baum Bigus
Oh, absolutely. Of course. And go to your website. Oh.

00:24:24:09 – 00:24:25:06
NaTika Rowles
No, to my website.

00:24:26:08 – 00:24:27:07
Ruth Baum Bigus
Absolutely.

00:24:27:08 – 00:24:27:25
NaTika Rowles
Like to donate.

00:24:27:25 – 00:24:50:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
But you have such enthusiasm for this work. Give us a peek of where in the tech it came from and landed here. We feel like. Yeah, yeah. Well, here’s because you’re the you’re leading the charge. So I want, you know, the man and woman behind the curtain we want to see. Yeah.

00:24:50:11 – 00:25:23:04
NaTika Rowles
So I have a background in nonprofit on the Ely side of of running a nonprofit. So I was there with the nonprofit that we’re serving, and I think that’s where my passion comes in. I’ve been, you know, one of the leading the grassroots nonprofit writing grant up and I know. And so that’s my background. I have a husband, I have five children.

00:25:23:04 – 00:26:00:02
NaTika Rowles
And I think we we’ve been in Kansas City for about seven or eight years. My husband is from Kansas City. He’s been trying to get me here for the past 25 years of our work. And it finally happened. And it’s the best place ever. So, yeah, I just have a heart for community. I have a heart for community development in a way that citizens should be empowered right to to to change, to be the change makers in their community.

00:26:00:02 – 00:26:35:28
NaTika Rowles
So I try to interject that in any and everything I do and with the black community Fund, and I really can’t take that. You know, I really can’t sit here say, oh, yes, we’ve done all this work. But my board of directors, our board chair, I will name namedrop. Is that okay? Absolutely. Okay. So our board chair, Emmett Pearson Jr, who’s been on the board for years, is quite instrumental in the direction that Bishop has taken Desmond Bryant, who’s also been on the board as long if not as long as Emmett.

00:26:35:28 – 00:27:03:26
NaTika Rowles
He’s getting there. Huge influence on the direction of the fund and story. Shannon Barry and Dan Haley, that’s it is the Mighty Five, right? And with them, I’d say they allow me to kind of float around the city and see what we can put our hands into and find. Right. May not be a lot. I mean, we don’t have millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars.

00:27:03:26 – 00:27:09:06
Ruth Baum Bigus
But don’t tell anyone that you will. You will as.

00:27:09:09 – 00:27:14:26
NaTika Rowles
Well. And we’ll look back on this podcast and go, yep, we spoke that, but you heard it.

00:27:14:26 – 00:27:36:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
Here first on KC Kurzweil. It’s it’s your 40th anniversary, which is monumental, if you think about it and what’s happened in that 40 years. Oh, my gosh. So much change. Probably you weren’t even born yet, but you’re leading that. And I can’t believe you have five kids and you’re doing this. Oh, my gosh. Kudos to you, Mama. You work.

00:27:36:03 – 00:27:54:18
Ruth Baum Bigus
And Mama, we are so grateful for your time. I want to remind everybody to go check out the Black Community Fund doing great work. So it’s black community fund dot org. And I’m sure Nautica would answer any question that you have. Thank you so much for your time.

00:27:55:01 – 00:27:57:00
NaTika Rowles
Thanks for having me, Ruth. It was fun.

00:27:57:25 – 00:28:20:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
Yeah. Thank you for joining us. For KC Care’s Kansas City’s nonprofit voice were produced by Charitable Communications, also a nonprofit. This KC Care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, www.kauffman.org. If you’d like to be a guest on KC Cares, please visit our Web site. kccaresonline.org and spread the love.

00:28:20:03 – 00:36:22:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and on Instagram at KC Cares online. Don’t forget, you can catch us on Saturday mornings at 8 p.m. on ESPN 15:10 a.m. and 94.5 FM. Thank you for joining us on KC CARES.