Aug 08, 2016

The Philadelphia African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) recently published a comparative research study on the uniquely critical role African American-led nonprofit service agencies play and the challenges they face in serving African American communities.

The Rev. David W. Brown, a deacon serving at Wharton-Wesley UMC in Philadelphia and co-chair of the forum, wrote an overview of the report, titled How African American-Led Organizations Differ from White-Led Organizations. Brown also serves on the Eastern PA Conference Urban Commission. While black churches were not included in the study, he shares insights about the resourcing challenges they face in serving their communities.


The PAALF commissioned the first-of-its kind, two-year study with funding from United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, and support from the Urban Affairs Coalition. Researchers surveyed more than 145 leaders of nonprofit human services organizations in Philadelphia, with added input from African American executive directors and local funders. Their findings revealed that nonprofit groups led by African Americans “are doing more with less during these challenging economic times.”

paalf-logo@2xOther key findings include:

  • Organizations led by African Americans have fewer staff, volunteers and cash reserves than white-led organizations, making them more dependent on government grants.
  • Predominantly black boards of directors have limited access to important social networks and also to key funding sources.
  • African American-led organizations tend to serve and exist among the neediest populations with the least resources.

Brown, also a professor at Temple University, recalls a historic precedent in using research to propel a social agenda within Philadelphia’s black community. “From the time that Dr. W.E.B. DuBois studied African Americans in the late 1800’s to this work today, it shows that data does matter in shaping a movement that turns numbers into real action.”

“The knowledge that African American nonprofit leaders bring to this community is invaluable,” says Sharmain Matlock-Turner, co-chair of the PAALF and head of the Urban Affairs Coalition. “This new research gives us a platform to build on that strength by promoting opportunities for increased collaboration, talent development and engagement not only within African American organizations, but across all sectors.”

The report’s findings are being shared with the nonprofit and philanthropic community at large to influence future strategic investments and capacity building programs for local nonprofits. Read Brown’s personal take on the study. And read the executive summary and full report at