Recognizing donors who break down barriers

Our hope for racial harmony begins with our individual actions. Three Kansas City men are on the right track. Joe Webster, Willie Humphrey and Sanders Martin, black men who live in south Kansas City, Missouri, founded a scholarship fund in 2002.

“We were sitting around watching football one Sunday afternoon and we had the thought we should do something to help people,” Joe told me.

The friends began by donating money out of their own pockets to provide a scholarship for a student in their neighborhood. Then they began mowing lawns to raise money for more scholarships. Today they have a whole team of people mowing lawns, raking leaves, and doing handyman work. People who receive their services donate what they want to. Their Go Long Scholarship Foundation provides ten $20,000 scholarships a year.

On Wednesday the Association of Fundraising Professionals Mid-America Chapter presented Go Long with the annual “Avant-Garde Award for Innovation in Fundraising” at its annual National Philanthropy Day celebration. Patricia MacDonald, a senior philanthropic advisor at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and executive director of the Black Community Fund, nominated the organization.

“They put the grass in grass-roots fundraising,” Pat says with a laugh. “I was so happy to see the professional fundraisers in the room embrace them.”

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation manages the investments and distributes the scholarships for Go Long.

Students from all over the Kansas City area apply. Recipients are chosen by their drive to succeed and financial need. Their race has nothing to do with it.

“Go Long is a bright light in that they are open to helping everyone. There are no barriers,” Pat says. “Receiving the scholarship might help people who are not African-American have a broader perspective. It definitely will influence how they view humanity.”

The scholarship recipients quickly learn the importance of giving back. Many spend their spring breaks with the volunteers mowing, trimming and helping high school seniors with a dream go to college.

Pat sees Go Long influencing the community as a whole. 

"They're leaders in demonstrating that everyone can give back," she says. "They wanted to do something for kids and figured out what they can do."

Read an interview with Pat MacDonald on the blog BlackGivesBack