Holiday Giving Revisited – What Organizations and Why?


A friend of mine, Joe Muth, is a Catholic priest in Baltimore. His ministry has included serving inner-city Black congregations and a parish that became home to immigrants and refugees from Africa and around the world.

In our “Seeing Whiteness as an Anti-racist Action” learning circle, Joe shared a story whose meaning I am beginning to understand more deeply.  It is changing how I think about my contributions to nonprofit organizations around the holidays.

When Joe was first assigned to St. Ann’s Church, a predominantly Black parish in Baltimore’s neglected inner city, a parishioner inquired about his preaching. “Father Joe,” she said, “you don’t seem to like preaching much, do you?” He was stunned and wondered what she meant. She replied that we want someone who will preach the word, teach the word, and bring it home. “ Joe initially thought she wanted longer sermons. “No,” she clarified “ just preach the word, teach the word and bring it home.”  

To his credit, my friend Joe began to understand her message. In response, he signed up for a course at the Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore called “Preaching and Ministry in the Black Church” taught by the pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church. Joe was among a handful of white participants in this course.

He learned about the “call and response” method of preaching that is used in some Black churches. His preaching style began to change. Preaching was no longer a one-way communication. He invited and encouraged involvement of the congregation. His friendly critic was delighted.

Many years later, as part of his practice of noticing about whiteness and anti-racism, he realized that the Catholic seminary he attended had taught him how to preach to white people. There was no awareness or appreciation that preaching to Black congregations might require a different approach.  There was no effort to teach about differences.

The dominant white culture blinds us in many ways including the decisions we make about our contributions. As I reflected on Joe’s story, I thought of Shaymar Higgs, a young African-American man in my own community and his efforts to build a nonprofit to serve the people not served by the mainstream institutions. I realized he confronted the same reality as Joe, except in the reverse. For this nonprofit leader, the white community – government leaders, people of means, and people who might make small donations – are used to giving to a nonprofit that looks and feels and operates a certain way – the ways of white-dominated institutions and nonprofits.

Shaymar is an artist and created a nonprofit THE SPACE Free Art for All (THE SPACE) which uses art to offer hope and healing to people impacted by Covid, poverty and everyday life. He has found a home in the center of a large mall/shopping complex where he has access every day to people from the community. Beltway Plaza, as the mall is known, is in transition. It serves the very racially and ethnically diverse communities that surround it and nearby communities. There are major stores like Target, Burlington, and small vendors and entrepreneurs focused on specific niche markets.

A new board member in encouraging the City government to consider investing in THE SPACE made his case this way:

“THE SPACE has given away more than 6,000 books in partnership with Friends of Greenbelt Library and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, distributed hundreds of free art kits, collected and distributed clothing, and offered a safe harbor for youth and families. Plans for 2023 involve expanding into a larger “safe harbor” space and offering even more programming.

“Shaymar’s perspective and energy to support People of Color in Greenbelt West are invaluable to Greenbelt now. In 2020 and 2021he garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind donations of mall space, books, clothing, art supplies, laptops, and even PPE supplies, which have gone to support local residents directly. Just since last Saturday, THE SPACE has received 8 boxes and four contractor bags full of clothes and six boxes of party supplies. They had the most visitors yet on Saturday in the Kids Footlocker space.

“Shaymar’s passion for supporting under-represented populations in Greenbelt has inspired many residents to ask staff and Council to step up and support THE SPACE financially over the past year. Thus far, the City’s lack of financial support has been disappointing and surprising: lots of applause but no financial commitment.

Sadly, if THE SPACE did not exist, there would be a huge gap in the Greenbelt support for all residents. Yet, like my friend Joe and his preaching, we are trained to believe nonprofits have a certain look in order to be “good” places to donate. Raising money has been nearly impossible for Shaymar and THE SPACE.

I invite you to consider giving to THE SPACE  and to notice what holiday giving means to you? Is it time to consider giving to organizations outside your comfort zone who are working for justice and equity? Maybe, consider giving to a grassroots organization in your community, a national organization working for racial justice or organizations led by women of color doing racial equity work.

If we are all equal, then our giving needs to respect our differences and ensure that we are reaching all.


  • Tom Adams

    Tom Adams writes and speaks on topics vital to the intersection of our personal lives with our community and global lives. He has for decades been engaged in and written about nonprofit leadership and transitions, spirituality and spiritual growth, how we each contribute to a more just and equitable world and recovery from addictions and the Twelve Step recovery movement.


  1. Robin Chandlee

    Thanks for spotlighting this organization. And thanks for the good work you continue to do.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Robin, great to hear from you. All the best to you, Chris and your family.


  2. Lois Rosado

    Very insightful post. I had not thought about how the SPACE was being treated from this perspective. You are absolutely correct in the White criteria that is used to consider something a legitimate non-profit. Thanks for pointing this out.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Lois, raising money for a person of color is indeed a stacked deck. Thanks for your continued work to level the field. Tom

  3. Louise Weissman

    Thank you for this important post. Like you, I agree that “the white community – government leaders, people of means, and people who might make small donations – are used to giving to a nonprofit that looks and feels and operates a certain way – the ways of white-dominated institutions and nonprofits.” There are additional donor sectors that should be included in that list: private foundations and corporations (and, yes) faith-based philanthropic entities. These donors need to also look at how their giving patterns and priorities reflect an anti-racist and inclusive approach to giving.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Louise, indeed when we look at who controls most intstutions that give or deliver services, there is lots of room for conscious and unconscious bias. Be well, Tom

  4. Katie Pugliese

    I love this, Tom. Thanks.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Katie, be well and all th ebest for the holidays, Tom

  5. Lucy Silver

    Great post, Tom. And thank you, Lois, for sharing it with me. I will definitely be giving to The SPACE this season.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Lucy for adding your comments and your advocacy for equity. Be well, Tom