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The Art of Black Philanthropy: Highlighting Alumna Tiffany Townsend

Tiffany Townsend talks about Black Philanthropy Month.

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photo by Mignonette Johnson

During Black Philanthropy Month, we had the pleasure of talking with Tiffany Townsend, CAS/MA ’07, about the importance of philanthropic work. Tiffany works for the National Museum of African American History and Culture as an Advancement Associate. 

Tiffany got her start in philanthropic work as a development assistant for WETA TV 26. She worked her way up, gaining experience to take on larger roles. During her time at WETA, Tiffany amassed a set of skills crucial to philanthropic work from proposal writing, prospect research, grants administration and stewardship, while working in the organization’s Foundation and Government Development department which raised and stewarded funds for Ken Burn’s Florentine Films, PBS NewsHour, and station-produced projects. Tiffany, in true AU fashion, stressed the importance of looking at how individual donations can support a larger mission. 

In 2011, Dr. Jacqueline Bouvier Copeland founded Black Philanthropy Month. In honor of this, we asked Tiffany: 

What is the value of holding space specifically for Black philanthropy?
“I think the value is showing that African Americans give. Highlighting the fact that we give—and the ways in which we give—inspires others who may not be philanthropic to become philanthropic. As a community, we embody what philanthropy is about because philanthropy literally translates to ‘love of mankind.’

Highlighting the fact that we give and support each other through informal networks—like helping out family members—and then showing how we support various institutions by giving to arts, colleges, universities, and youth activities, Black Philanthropy Month is important for highlighting that we, as a people, give and celebrate that.”

How does arts philanthropy support our society as a whole? 
“In my opinion, one of the most powerful things about philanthropy is storytelling, which is what attracted me to the arts space. When people see a story that may be different from themselves or see a story to which they can relate, that allows them to see how they can be the heroes in their own stories. A great thing about philanthropy is that you're giving to something that's bigger than yourself. It's about creating legacy; you're investing in the stories of not just present day but in the future in terms of what other stories can be told.”
*Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.