Meet Brandon Parkes; one of our incredible partners at Givebutter. Brandon is the Founder of Parkes Philanthropy, a social impact firm. CauseArtist named Brandon one of “20 Inspiring African Americans Impacting the World Through Social Impact & Social Innovation,” made Startup Boost’s NYC 33 under 33, and has been featured in several publications. Brandon is also a Next Gen Leader for the NAACP, and an Alumni of the Young Black and Giving Institute.
In this special video, Brandon shares how we can use philanthropy for racial justice in light of recent events.
Brandon also shares why he recommends Givebutter as a fundraising platform to philanthropists, companies, and nonprofits.
“I think it was in the New York Times relatively recently, on how philanthropy is often set out to just mitigate inequality. However, it shows that race remains to be a defining factor when looking at which organizations get funded and how much they receive. I think that statement alone really just causes a call to action to funders and to grantors, to really look inwards, to see - are we acknowledging even our input bias, for instance? And what does that look like?”
Full video transcript
Rachel: Hi all, Rachel here with Givebutter. Before we start today's success story I think it's really important to acknowledge what's happening in recent events - the senseless and terrible deaths of so many in the black community, including George Floyd. I think it's really important to start by acknowledging that and that Givebutter stands in solidarity with the black community and against any sort of discrimination of any kind. Today it’s really important that you all hear and all know that we stand in solidarity. And also that you know that we are listening. We are sorry. We are learning. And we want to know at Givebutter, want to know how we can be better allies for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today's success story - I think you are just going to be taking away so much. I have here with me Brandon from Parkes Philanthropy in New York. He's an incredible nonprofit consultant and partner of Givebutter. And today's gonna be a little different because we're going to talk about these recent tragic events and how we can use philanthropy, whether we're individuals or a nonprofit or small business owners, how we can use it on the Givebutter platform for good. He's going to have tips and tricks and what you see nonprofits do with it and why, why he's chosen to recommend it. So we're going to kind of combine the two and it's going to be amazing. You're going to want to keep listening because you're going to be resourced. You're going to learn a lot and trust me, you're going to be really inspired just getting to know him because he is just an incredible light. So Brandon, thank you so much for joining us today.
Brandon: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for those kind words on behalf of yourself and Givebutter and the community.
Rachel: So why don't we start by having you introducing a little bit about who you are and what Parkes Philanthropy does?
Brandon: Definitely. So my name is Brandon Parkes and I'm currently the founder of Parkes Philanthropy. And Parkes Philanthropy is a social impact firm that's dedicated to equipping nonprofit organizations, corporations, and individuals with the support and resources they need in order to deepen their impact. A little bit about my background. Prior, I actually worked for Bridge Philanthropic Consulting, which is the nation's largest African-American owned fundraising firm. So through that, I actually was a development, fundraiser, and consultant for a separate amount of black led organizations. Apollo Theater, for example, Friends of Harlem Hospital. There's a lot of different organizations that really are serving the black community. Prior to that, I have a mixed background working in nonprofit management for an international development organization called Right To Play. Previously, worked in corporate social responsibility for companies like Morgan Stanley and Toyota. And we're looking forward to just leveraging not only my past experiences and background, but really leveraging just a collective of just different philanthropic practitioners, who I'm just lucky to call on my consultants to really just help other individuals deepen their impact.
Rachel: Absolutely. We are just so honored to have you today. So why don't we start with talking about recent events? What can all of us be doing to be supporting - in philanthropy - supporting the black community?
Brandon. Definitely. Definitely. That's definitely a question that I've been, been asking myself these last few days. Just naturally with just the state of affairs, I personally have just been going through such a roller coaster of emotions, just naturally feeling, just moments of just utter sadness, despair, anger, rage, just honestly so many different emotions to the point where I just feel so overwhelmed that I honestly feel almost disarmed and almost able to kind of do the work, but it's during these time periods where it's just so evident that there's not only so much that has been done, but so much work that needs to be done specifically within the social sector, within the way that nonprofit organizations are even organized, but just at our community and society at large. Just even right now, for example - just providing, creating a space on an order to kind of have this open dialogue and share tips and share resources. I definitely think within itself, is there such a positive way that individuals and organizations like Givebutter can really just do their part by kind of facilitating these open dialogues. But when it comes to just supporting on the black community and how we can kind of leverage philanthropy, I definitely feel that there is kind of a multiple of ways that I've at least seen how individuals on and grantors can really translate on philanthropy and to just social equity and social justice initiatives. For example, even as from the get go, just obviously supporting black led organizations. I even think it was in the New York Times relatively recently on a study by I believe it's Echoing Green and Bridgespan actually released a study how philanthropy is often set out to just mitigate inequality. However, it shows that race remains to be a defining factor when looking at which organizations get funded and how much they receive. I think that statement alone really just causes a call to action to funders and to grantors, to really look inwards, to see - are we acknowledging even our input bias for instance? And how does that look like? When we are just supporting different organizations on, and we're supporting specifically organizations that are supporting the black community, what does that diversity of leadership look like? If we're supporting an organization that's supporting the black community, however their leadership is 99.9% white. How do they, I guess, really believe that they're able to just support a community that doesn't even have representation internally in their organization? So I think at this time, it really just for at least individuals it's really, for me, at least just being really strategic with your charitable giving, really not only just supporting just black led organization to support the community, but obviously doing your research is really looking to see, not only which organizations are doing that work, but also with organizations are in need of support. Just naturally with COVID-19 just so many organizations have been hit so hard, whether it's being not able to even be able to have the programmatic work, not being able to have joint fundraising initiatives, for example. Those are organizations that have such great impact and such great programmatic work to support our community. But really right now, maybe struggling. It’s really just looking inward and really just reaching out to these organizations that really just are doing that work. It's really just identify ones that not only align and kind of go through the social justice and social equity lens but the ones that really align with what you personally believe in, whether it being a black led organization, they showed up the nexus of LGBTQ rights, for instance. Whether it be, if you are really about just protesting for instance, and really using your physical being in order to really just enact change, supporting organizations that are really supporting protesters like the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, for instance. To really just support funds towards individuals who may be in precarious situation just by leveraging their voice and leveraging their body in order to just show up and be present during these times. Yeah for me, I just really feel like, at least for individuals, it's really just being intentional, just being open, just really, not only just taking action, but really actively listening, checking in on your black employees or black friends, your black colleagues. But not also just checking up on them or asking them, how can you show up? How can you do this work? How can you really show up as an ally? I believe there've been so many instances where I've just even personally been so refreshed, honestly, by this time period of how it's everybody really is just kind of just showing their voice and representing where they stand with and within this space right now. But at the same time, it's also about what are you actually doing in terms of tangible action items. How are you really just ensuring that you're not only speaking up, but really making a measurable impact?
Rachel: Thank you so much for sharing that. I mean, speaks volumes to that there are things that we can be doing individually, corporately, community-wide. It's thinking about every aspect that we can not only listen, leverage our voice, and like you said, leverage our bodies - take actionable steps. There are so many things that we can be doing. And as paralyzing as it might feel from so many different perspectives, for those that are listening, you can do something, you can do something. What would you say for somebody you gave example, which I loved about supporting nonprofits or foundations, whatever, that are supporting black communities. What would be the first place to start, or do you have any that you would recommend for people that are watching or reading right now?
Brandon: Yeah, no, definitely. So, I mean, I can definitely suggest a few amazing organizations that I personally have supported over the last few days and weeks, whether it's the National Police Accountability Project. I had mentioned the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Black Visions Collective, the Legal Rights Center, the official George Floyd Memorial Fund, Black Lives Matter. I feel like those on within itself or just a short list of organizations that are really just galvanizing on the black community and other communities of allyship in order to really just make long term systematic change. For me, for example, I just feel like even working in this space, I feel like I even have so many questions and I'm not even an expert at all when it comes to what the, what the solutions are in order to really make the change that we really need to see in order to ensure that we are not in these situations anymore. Just, I feel like even me being in the philanthropic sector, just I remember posting my first black lives matter status on social media, 10 years ago, to date, for example, and still seeing the same things are happening. It really just proves that not only has there been so much discussion, actions throughout these last few decades, which I'm still appreciative of, but just so much more work that needs to be done just internally within organizations with blenders, just at large. And just how do we work collectively in order to really make that change? Well, even for me, for instance, just when it comes to even just positive narratives, for instance, just even myself, when I have just been in this space. And even when I've been in terms of being a leader for Parkes Philanthropy and just identifying, just diverse leaders and consultants I can have on my team, I even noticed kind of almost, not a lack but almost just definitely a shorter list of even individuals who I believe are people of color who are just changemakers professionally. And how do I even position myself or position in my professional career to younger generations within the black community to show that this is something you can be a changemaker professionally, you know, this can be something that you can be doing personally, professionally, and we really do need just that next generation of just black leaders within this space to really enact that change that we need to see. So even if you are just a black professional within the social sector, I'm just despite the roller coasters of emotions that we each are all feeling. I bet this is our time to really just show up and not only just do the work or really disposition ourselves as almost mentors to the younger generation to show them that this is a space that you can be in, and this is a community that you are a part of and a community that you also have the ability and opportunity to personally and professionally be a agent of change within. I feel like even when I was younger, I didn't even know philanthropy or the nonprofit space, for instance, was something that I even had the opportunity to professionally be a part of or a community that I thought just wasn't something that I was supposed to be a part of, for instance. I definitely just want that dialogue specifically to change as well.
Rachel: Right. So speaking of being an agent of change, I know some nonprofits you have worked with have used the Givebutter platform. Can you share with everybody how you got connected with Givebutter? I mean, there are just a plethora of other fundraising platforms that you could have chosen to work with with your clients. So how did you find Givebutter? What made you turn to it to recommend it to your nonprofit clients and the amazing work that you're all doing together?
Brandon: Definitely, definitely. Well, and guys, I'm not paid to say this, but I love Givebutter. I actually came across Givebutter first and foremost for their Venmo capability and functionality. So that's what brought me towards doing more research and into Givebutter because me, for example, in my friends, I know that Venmo is definitely just an easy and accessible payment gateway. And knowing that Givebutter is, I believe at this moment, I think the premier maybe the only fundraising platform that has an integration with Venmo. That's what initially made me super excited to learn more about Givebutter. And once I kind of came within the Givebutter ecosystem, had the opportunity of speaking with Max and with Tori. It was just amazing. Givebutter as a product, almost like a big company, for example, fundraising platform, but the team is just almost like a family. You just feel that you have the ability to just connect with members of the team and gain that support at any given moment. Props to Tori who was personally my customer success manager! Just knowing that, just getting a feel of a team and just know that they're just so passionate about the work. And they're so passionate about leveraging technology and digital fundraising to just support just a separate amount of nonprofit organizations. And it's just palpable. It's just palpable. When you're communicating with the team, communicating with yourself, it's just not only a technology platform or just a company that is just trying to do good, for example. The team really just embodies that. Even having this conversation and having the space and providing this space for myself and for the community, even just shows was even much more so the type of community that you really are engaging with when you sign up for Givebutter. I'm just so excited to kind of be not only a part of the Givebutter community, but also even just, even just as something as small as the newsletters that go out, it's not always about even just selling just different, the product roadmap or different features. It really just encompasses just really positive and great energy and news that are out there. And that's just really what just keeps me in this Givebutter ecosystem and makes me just so excited when I do come across nonprofit organizations that really are looking to just really enhance and amplify their digital fundraising. Givebutter, for me, is just the go-to.
Rachel: Thank you so much for saying that. I mean, it's a joy for us to get to partner with incredible people like you, Brandon. So thank you for saying that. And Tori definitely deserves a shout out! So what was your experience in being a consultant for nonprofits using the platform? How did you see them using it? Just generally?
Brandon: Yeah, no, definitely. So for me, for organizations that I've worked with that utilize the Givebutter platform, it's definitely, it was honestly a pretty seamless experience. Just the tools and resources that are provided once you sign up for Givebutter are pretty straightforward. Like I mentioned, just having just a strong customer success team from right when you sign up to, when you actually are integrating just the platform, it's either your website or creating our donation page. It was just amazing. Just the functionality is super simple and easy to digest, whether it is just making customized fundraising pages, for example, just the amount of tools are also pretty dynamic just from not only just fundraising pages, but from peer-to-peer, just the Venmo integration, for example. Just the display, for example, of the pages within itself are just clean and crisp comparatively to other clunky pages that I've had the experience of working with prior fundraising platforms. I mean, it's just works and it's just efficient and it's effective. It’s just straightforward and simple to use. And I noticed like during this time period, just every, everything is digital, just everything is digital just specifically within this generation and my generation, for instance, just, I - I can't even remember the last time even myself or my family members or even some funders have even used a check, for example, in terms of just fundraising. It's just this is just the new era. And now when it comes to digital fundraising, it's just all about finding the one that's just most effective and best for you. But like I mentioned it when it comes to technology, I just feel like it's not even also about the platform. It's about kind of the team behind that platform. That's there to support you within your efforts. And just, I can only speak personally of my experience with Givebutter, but just when, just I have so many people who want to donate or create peer-to-peer pages, and I just feel so overwhelmed. How do I change this photo to make it more optimized or how do we choose the colors here? Or how do I integrate this to this? Just the Givebutter team has just been there and ready to go whenever I need them. And just always ready to answer questions and really just amped up with just the resources that I always need. And I couldn't be more thankful to kind of partner with such a great platform and a great team.
Rachel: Well, we do our best to make the interface as easy as possible. And I think in light of recent events, including COVID-19, it's been our goal to be one last thing for everyone to have to worry about that wants to do good and raise charitable funds. We were like, how can we make it as easy as possible? Because that's the last thing that you all should have to be worrying about - are making your campaign look good. That shouldn't be on your to-do list. That's on us. And we're continually working to optimize it and creating a features like Livestream. We're so glad that people have been utilizing it, including some of the people that you've been working with, Brandon. I'm wondering, just to close, if there's anything else just generally in this conversation that you feel like was left unsaid that you're like, I really want to make sure anybody who's listening would hear this... Is there anything else that you really want to share with people?
Brandon: Yeah. I just want to share that just being silent is an action within itself and just something that I personally can't accept. I don't think anybody should accept. These recent events just isn't something that affects the black community. It's something that affects all of us. I'm just a true believer that injustice to any of us is injustice to all of us. And I feel like everybody should be feeling some type of way during this time period. And everybody should be looking towards ways in order to really just leverage themselves. And like we mentioned your voice, your brand, your operations, to really make a social impact because it's only together and collectively can we really make some sort of long term sustainable change. And it takes action from every single one of us. There's no stone unturned. There's no individual who sort of feel that responsibility and that personal responsibility to speak up and to do something. And if there's ever, you have a question just like reach out to your community to, to find those solutions and find those answers. There's not just one solution out there, but it's only together and collectively can we just really identify the different means that we can just ensure that just there's no more social inequality and there's just no more racial injustice. I am just honestly tired and exhausted of being tired and exhausted of these issues. And even me personally, I'm still just perpetually trying to navigate. How do I even personally show up during these times? How do I leverage Parkes Philanthropy to my consultants, for example, to really just support the situation and really just create, just not only change right now when things are in the media and in the news but during the times when it's not in the news and not in the media, how do we create this long term sustainable change? And how do you create a long term sustainable conversation that outlasts. This will be next week when people stop talking about it on social media, for example, and how do we also just create these long term sustainable vehicles to really just support this change? So I’m even just even much more appreciative of Givebutter because it's not only just a mission of an organization that attracts people, but it's also that ease and ability. Is an ability of being able to just knowing you want to do good and want support organization, and as you mentioned, Rachel, it should not be difficult or hard. It shouldn't be, you have to do good. If you want to set up a campaign, if you want to set up a peer-to-peer fundraiser, it shouldn't be difficult. Just with Givebutter and within this community, we should be able to make those certain things as easy as possible in order to empower anybody and every constituent to just make that impact that they want to see.
Rachel: So well said. Thank you so much for joining us today. You are a gift.
Brandon: Thank you, Rachel. And thank you for the space and for this opportunity for me to just share my thoughts. Definitely just looking forward to seeing how we all can come together as just not even just a national community as a global community in order to really ensure that no innocent life is lost during these time periods.
Rachel: Absolutely. Thank you, Brandon.
Brandon: Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate it.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.