African American Giving Initiative

Who We Are

Established in 2011, this initiative is focused on creating an endowment fund with broad community support and to provide grantmaking for needs that are specific to the African American community in the greater Rochester region. Members are committed to making a positive change in problem areas experienced most strongly within the African American community.

The group’s goal is to raise $1 million to create a permanent endowment that will grow and respond to the future needs and aspirations of Rochester’s Black community — forever. Members’ gifts to the African American Giving Initiative Fund will be designated for two purposes — half for grantmaking that year and half to help build the endowment. 

All contributors decide together how to best distribute the charitable dollars raised, taking full advantage of the power of giving together. We encourage giving to the Initiative from anyone who believes that a community is only as healthy as each person’s neighbor.

There are several options for getting involved (see details on how to join). In addition to financial support, your participation and passion as a volunteer on the steering committee to direct grantmaking also can help further the work of the Initiative.

Our Previous Grants

2021: Two grants totaling $8,000 were awarded to:

  • Beyond the Sanctuary: To support the Drive to Success Program that provides one-on-one mentoring, coaching, and guidance to individuals living in poverty to help them navigate the process of obtaining a driver’s license. $4,000
  • Rochester Black Nursing Association: For the See Me Project, which provides health and wellness self-care and educational items for expectant and postpartum mothers of color. $4,000

2020: Three grants totaling $7,500 were awarded to:

  • Center for Employment Opportunities: To support formerly incarcerated Rochester-area residents with employment re-entry help. $2,500
  • Center for Teen Empowerment: To support an inter-generational history ambassadors project that involved having TE youth interview organizers of the Clarissa Street Reunion and residents of the neighborhood and produce a movie documenting what they discovered. $2,500
  • Dress for Success Rochester, Inc.: For a career development and training program for women who need help getting back to work. $2,500

2019: Three grants totaling $8,000 were awarded to:

  • Judicial Process Commission: Supports the Legal Action Employability Program to: reduce barriers to re-entry for citizens involved in the criminal justice system; improve their overall economic health; and help them stabilize and prepare for local employment. $2,500
  • Gateways Music Festival: Celebrates the participation and contributions of classically-trained musicians of African descent through more than 50 solo, chamber, and orchestra performances in the Eastman Theatre, houses of worship, schools, and other community locations. The Festival engages audiences from all racial and socio-economic backgrounds, provides a supportive environment for participating musicians, and helps sustain and increase diversity within the field of classical music. $2,500
  • Mt. Sinai Ministries: Supports “Breaking All Barriers,” a summer camp experience for 75 at-risk youth ages 4 through 12 in Rochester’s Southwest Quadrant, where 35.8% of the population lives below the poverty line. The program helps mitigate the sense of despair many parents feel from lack of financial means to pay for summer camp. $3,000

2018: Three grants totaling $10,000 were awarded to:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester: Supports the “Beyond School Walls” mentoring program that targets 70 at-risk Rochester youth ages 6 to 18. African American mentors host one-on-one sessions at the mentors’ places of work. $5,000
  • Quad A for Kids: Strengthens the successful after-school programs offered at four city schools by focusing on academics, project-based learning, leadership development, and community service. $2,500
  • Wilson Alliance: Supports the Rochester City School District Wilson Pearls step team’s college prep program that serves high school girls ages 14 to 20 four days a week and provides workshops, tutoring, team building, and community service. $2,500

2017: Three grants totaling $7,100 were awarded to support:

  • Gateways Music Festival 2017: Supports this unique festival which brings in professional musicians of African descent from across the nation to Rochester to perform and, in conjunction with local volunteer supporters, change the face of classical music. $2,500
  • Cameron Community Ministries: Supports the Respect & Responsibility for Boys Group, a special weekly component of its youth program. $2,100
  • University of Rochester: For a two-year, paid youth apprenticeship program that will provide hands-on work experience for under-represented junior and senior high school students in Rochester with an expressed interest in healthcare. $2,500

2016: The Judicial Process Commission received a $5,000 grant to assist African American ex-offenders as they re-enter the community by providing a mentor and job training opportunities.

2015: Three grants of $3,333.34 each were awarded to support:

  • Cameron Community Ministries: Strengthens the after-school program for 40 youth in the Lyell-Otis neighborhood.
  • Gateways Music Festival: Supports this biennial festival, held in Rochester since 1995, which celebrates the contributions of classical instrumentalists of African descent. 
  • Group 14621 Community Association: Supports the Conkey Cruisers bicycling program that is changing the negative perception of exercise in that neighborhood. 

2014: Group 14621 Community Association received $2,500 to support the Conkey Cruisers bicycling program. 

2013: Gateways Music Festival received $5,200, the first-ever grant from the Giving Initiative. This biennial festival, held in Rochester since 1995, celebrates the contributions of classical instrumentalists of African descent. Festival musicians, who came from all over the country, performed for youth at Wilson Academy Foundation in addition to other schools, houses of worship, theaters, and Rochester City Hall.

Other Significant Work

The State of Black Rochester 2013: Education + Employment = Equity was commissioned by the Initiative to provide an overview of the racial and ethnic disparities in our community. This 40-page paperback, which is a compilation of essays from prominent community leaders and experts, includes data compiled by ACT Rochester. The book is available in print and in e-book form on

For more information on the African American Giving Initiative, email

The African American Giving Initiative invites you to join and to find your place in giving through these levels:

  • Founder ($1,000+): This annual investment gives you a vote in the grantmaking process that directs dollars to organizations making a measurable difference. Founders receive exclusive invitations to AAGI-sponsored events as well as educational and community programs.
  • Dunbar Society ($500+): This annual investment gives you a vote in grantmaking. Members at this level are invited to attend educational and community programs sponsored by the Giving Initiative.
  • The Culture Collective ($400): A donation of any amount will be put toward grants selected by AAGI members at the Supporter and Founder levels.

Half of all gifts are added to the AAGI endowment fund for the future and the other half support immediate community needs through grants. All contributions are tax deductible.

To join, use our easy and secure online form or mail a check, payable to Rochester Area Community Foundation (with African American Giving Initiative in the Memo line) to African American Giving Initiative, c/o Rochester Area Community Foundation, 500 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607. All contributions to the Initiative are tax deductible.

Through its annual grantmaking, the African American Giving Initiative supports projects and programs that positively impact or directly reduce an identified disparity in the African American community and lead to systemic change. Collaboration with partners and/or the ability to replicate program achievements are also key components of a successful application.

For more information about the Initiative’s grant criteria and annual grant cycle, click here.