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Black Women to Watch in Philanthropy: Judith Batty

Judith Batty, national board member, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. and supporter of the arts.

How do you define philanthropy?

I define it as giving money and time to causes that are important to you which make your community or the world better. Giving money is critical, but it’s not enough to just give money. Time, which you usually give as a board member (or volunteer), is also important.

If you have skills that can help an organization grow or survive it’s important to offer to share them to help

the organization become stronger. Your presence is also important. Sometimes you need to work with the clients and beneficiaries of the organization so that you stay energized, and the organization and its clients see that they have support from the wider community.

What is your giving strategy, and do you have advice for other philanthropists?

I tend to focus on two types of organizations: those that help kids, focusing on girls, and arts organizations because those are two areas that I am really passionate about. The organizations that I work with may be majority organizations, but they expend a lot of resources helping minority populations. That is important to me as a Black woman.

I am on the national board of directors for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. (GSUSA) The Scouts meet my “helping kids” requirement; they are the premier organization in this country for creating women leaders! They teach girls how to lead and how to work on a team. The cookie drive teaches girls business skills.

GSUSA serves all girls, including a lot of African Americans and Latinas. The Scouts are a great equalizer; we strive to serve all girls regardless of their race, religion, or economic background and to treat them equally.  I was a Girl Scout and so was my mother. It was a great experience for both of us!

I support the arts because I want them to be more available to all people. In schools that don’t have resources, the arts are the first program to get cut. Everyone should be exposed to the performing arts. They give people a powerful way to express themselves and to connect with each other.

I am on the board of Levine Music in Washington, DC. It’s an accredited music school that sends kids to

schools like Julliard, and they in turn become performing artists. Teenagers in DC. who want music careers go to Levine. I am the chair of the board of trustees for the Arena Stage, a theater in Washington, DC. The Arena produces great plays, and brings art to the community. We also have a Fellows program for college grads who want to work in or study theater. A lot of our Fellows are African American.

I also contribute money to political campaigns, which I think is very important, especially now.

My advice is

“Give to causes that you are passionate about!”

What are you most hopeful about? Tell me about some bright spots you’ve seen in a cause you care about.

I have met some phenomenal and amazing young women through Girl Scouts. That has helped me to become very hopeful about the future if it is in their hands. If they can accomplish so much at 16, 17 or 18, watch out for them at 20 or 30.

I am equally excited about the future of the arts. More and more inspiring and creative work is out there, and a lot of people are using art to promote social justice.

Who are your philanthropic sheroes?

There are many, but the most public is Oprah Winfrey. She’s a very generous billionaire. She opened The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a school for girls in Africa, and I really admire that. She also does a lot that we don’t hear about in the U.S.

Do Black women approach philanthropy differently?

I have no statistics. However, I think that Black women contribute to many more causes than most people, but in smaller denominations. We contribute a lot that way! I also think that we are more likely to donate to organizations that we know well, whether because we have volunteered our time to the organization or because they have personally helped us. Finally, I am convinced that Black women are more generous than others in volunteering our time.

To meet other amazing Black women to watch in philanthropy, read The Black Woman’s Guide to Philanthropy!

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