Building equity and economic mobility

Leaders in Forsyth County leverage Black Philanthropy Month to direct dollars to neediest communities

Across Forsyth County, people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds have the same hopes and dreams for their families: health, happiness and economic prosperity. Unfortunately, not all residents have an equal shot at achieving prosperity. According to a 2018 report by The Winston-Salem Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Initiative (BPI) in Forsyth County:

  • A Black student needs a high school diploma and a college degree to attain the same wealth as a white high school dropout.
  • Black residents are seven times as likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty than white residents.
  • The median household income for a Black household is $26,602, compared to $45,417 in a white household. 

National data backs this up also on a local level. According to a 2015 report, Forsyth County was second to last in economic mobility among the 2,478 counties in the U.S. 

BPI’s Rethinking Philanthropy report states, “The data has proven that for Black Americans, working hard and obtaining a quality education is not enough to achieve the American dream.” 

There are various factors that contribute to the racial inequities that disproportionately affect Black residents and communities in Forsyth County, including a history of structural racism, segregation, housing discrimination, redlining and public policy, to name a few. 

However, there are also individuals and organizations who are committed to addressing these racial disparities in order to promote a more equitable and prosperous future where everyone thrives. Launched in 2007, BPI is a 100 percent Black-led initiative that is explicitly, not exclusively, focused on grantmaking and programming that supports Black communities in Forsyth County. BPI’s mission is rooted in community and the power of investing collective resources to build a better future for everyone.

As they celebrate Black Philanthropy Month in August, the initiative’s leaders continue to work to debunk the myth that all philanthropists — and those who funnel their gifts into the community — are wealthy white men, says Andrea Hulighan, Director of Strategic Initiatives for The Winston-Salem Foundation. Take a look at BPI’s board and you’ll see that’s not the case.

“The powerful aspect of being 100 percent Black-led is that you have Black people making decisions about where money goes in the local Black community, which is huge,” she says. “Philanthropy tends to skew white as far as staff and boards are concerned, so it’s a really unique asset for Forsyth County to have a 100 percent Black-led philanthropic initiative making investments right here.”


Andrea Hulighan, Director of Strategic Initiatives for The Winston-Salem Foundation

That’s an important distinction. A 2020 report found that Black-led nonprofits had 45 percent less revenue and 91 percent lower unrestricted assets than white-led organizations. That means “donors who care about supporting social change must think more intentionally and proactively about race and racial equity,” concluded the report from Echoing Green and Bridgespan.

For that reason, BPI has focused on awarding grants in the areas of education and equity, both of which are tied to economic mobility, according to Corlis Sellers, chair of BPI’s Advisory Committee. 

“That could look like helping support initiatives around creating pathways to lucrative careers,” she says. “It could be helping local Black entrepreneurs with their businesses and supporting Black-led businesses. Any kind of initiative that helps people move up the economic ladder.”


Corlis Sellers, chair of BPI’s Advisory Committee

For example, in July BPI awarded the Crosby Scholars Community Partnership $10,000 to support programming which introduces Black male students to various medical career pathways. And in February, it gave $1,000 to HUSTLE Winston-Salem for a coffee with coaches program that provided coaching to local Black entrepreneurs while also supporting local Black-owned coffee shops.

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020, and the national cries for equality and justice that followed, raised the profile of organizations like BPI across the nation. With more attention has come more donations. Sellers says BPI typically awarded $25,000 to $30,000 a year in grants. But in 2020, the amount jumped to $107,000 — more than one-third of the $300,000 the organization has awarded since 2007.

That has inspired BPI’s board to have a goal of giving six-figures every year to predominantly Black-led organizations working with local Black communities. 

“We want to focus on an inclusive economy and expand our footprint. We really want to move the needle,” says Sellers. “The next time this report comes out, we don’t want Forsyth County to be number two from the bottom in economic mobility.”

Want to help? 

To learn more about BPI or to donate, visit To volunteer on one of BPI’s various committees, contact Shamika Starke, strategic initiatives officer at The Winston-Salem Foundation, at or (336) 604-5160. 


Grant recipients: Triad Cultural Arts (photo credit Christine Rucker)

What the Initiative Supports

Here’s a look at BPI’s most recent 2021 grant recipients.

Equity in Education grants, awarded in July:

 Impact grants, all $1,000, awarded in February:


Grant recipients: Neighborhood’s Hands (photo credit Kiara Harris)