Stephanie Glenn sheds light on Black Philanthropy.
In the 1990’s, a popular advertising slogan flooded television and radio airwaves chanting, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.” Nearly 30 years later, that same slogan ran across my mind as Stephanie Glenn sat down at the table of the Hilton Hotel’s Gather & Hem restaurant for our interview. In a split second, the answer was revealed. She was born with it.
Fresh faced with smooth skin and clean hair, Glenn had all the makings of a natural beauty. And though I tried, I couldn’t resist asking her about it right away.
Enthusiastically, she began to explain. “I’m really into skin care. I used to be a Clinique girl, a Mary Kay girl. But, I recently embarked on Adiva Naturals which is a natural skincare line from here in Richmond. I’ve always liked the ‘Black Girl Glow’ and I get that from Adiva. In a sense, it’s very therapeutic. The feel of it is luxury. And, I’m able to support a local Black business.”
I’m a huge fan of the Black Girl Luxury movement. So at that moment, I jotted down a reminder to visit Adiva Naturals to purchase products for my own ‘Black Girl Glow.’ I thought to myself, ‘I want my skin to glow like Glenn.’ (Another thought, “Get your skin to glow like Glenn” should probably be Adiva’s new slogan.)
But supporting Black businesses and people in general isn’t just what Glenn does. It’s who she is.
Stephanie Glenn is the Vice President of Diversity & Engagement at the Community Foundation, a leading partner and advocate for philanthropy and service in the Richmond region. According to her staff bio, she leads the development and implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies across the organization by providing counsel and support to the board and staff in areas such as recruiting, communications, engagement and business planning. She also manages a relationship portfolio in the community to bring diverse audiences and perspectives into the work of the Foundation.
One paramount achievement in Glenn’s career is her leadership in the Giving Black: Greater Richmond study. This initiative, which concluded in 2021, was designed to build an understanding of philanthropy in Black communities by spotlighting the contexts, conditions and capital investments needed to transform the cycle of philanthropy in Black communities.
Glenn explains the importance of the initiative:
“It’s not that African Americans, or Black people, are not philanthropic, it’s just that the institution of philanthropy, as it was formed back in the early 1900’s was created out of a taxpayer code for the wealthy. The percentage of black people during that time was not high. So we weren’t technically a part of the conversations on the institutions of philanthropy. But this study is diving deep into our history of giving, which is 500 plus years old.”
“We had not been at the table during these conversations, which meant that our stories weren’t being told and we were not taking advantage of the tax code.”
Glenn touted the importance of giving circles and other collective giving programs that bring donors together around common interests.
“If you ask our giving circles, ‘Why did they start,’ all of them will say it’s because, when they were having community events and supporting their children, people would think it was not a person of color who sponsored the event. And they were like, ‘No. We need to be represented and show the community that we give back to not only inspire them to do the same but to also say hey, we have role models in the community that give back.’ ”
In a nutshell, philanthropy is about helping others. But when it became about wealth, the Black community was left out of the conversation. And now, Glenn wants to tell those stories and inform people about the many benefits.
“If there was a thing, it’s about changing the narrative around Black philanthropy. It’s educating those to know that we do give, and how the Community Foundation can open their arms and be an on-ramp for those who want to give in a way that is profitable, legacy building, and in perpetuity.”
And a study like this can’t be done alone. Glenn quickly acknowledges her help which is a testament to how deep her natural beauty flows within her.
“You’re only as good as your team” she says. “I had an amazing team behind me along with the partnerships with Ujima Legacy Fund and SisterFund (Two of the four giving circles that the Community Foundation supports). Together we embarked on this journey. I had a great team. The team matters, 100%.”
There is one special person to whom Glenn makes sure to mention. And that’s her grandmother, Alice Gossett. It was because of her grandmother that Glenn has such a spirit for giving and she attributes her career choices to her.
“[My grandmother] had a heart of giving and when we were in abundance, she gave. And when we had a lack, she gave. I can remember sometimes us being very low on food, but we still would go to a soup kitchen to feed those who needed food when we ourselves needed food. And that always stuck with me. So, I’ve always had this heart to give. And it came from her.”
In our conversation, Glenn shares the heartwarming story of how her grandmother adopted her mother while fostering other children who needed homes.
“She made the ultimate sacrifice. She actually adopted my mother and she had foster kids. She dedicated her life to doing things for others who couldn’t do for themselves. And so, I just kind of adopted that. And looking back, I know where I need to be. So now, this evolution of being this Vice President, being a part of the executive team at the Community Foundation, being able to partner across the region, I feel like I can use my voice to kind of bring the voice of the voiceless into spaces and places that they wouldn’t normally be. My life trajectory would have been totally different if she had not sacrificed to give back to me in my life.”
And it is from the sacrifices of her grandmother that Glenn has found her purpose.
“Her heart to keep giving kind of just changed me. Nonprofit is not necessarily a career where you grow in financial wealth at all. Like the skill and the commitment and the passion it takes… I remember having three volunteering jobs and a real job and going to school. Like, it was a hustle and a grind. It didn’t necessarily turn out to be financially enriching but with as hard as it’s been and as difficult as it’s been, it has always sustained me because it’s a heart thing. It’s my purpose.”
“I am walking in my purpose.”
For more information on the Community Foundation and how you can give back, visit CFRichmond.org.