Stories of Brooklyn Giving
If you ask Katrena Perou what she loves about Brooklyn, she’ll tell you it’s the summers: “I love the block parties over the summer. My children and I could just barely walk down the street and run into two or three block parties,” she shared. “And no matter which one you walked into, people would welcome you, give you food, as if they’ve known you all along.”
Given the strong sense of community she feels in Brooklyn, it might not come as a surprise that when Katrena sold her house in Bedford-Stuyvesant several years ago, she took some of the profits and invested it back into the larger community through her nonprofit: Inspiring Minds NYC. Under Katrena’s vision as executive director, the organization provides local youth with after-school and summer programming focused on leadership, civic engagement, college readiness, and much more.
But beyond building her own nonprofit to invest in Brooklyn’s future leaders, Katrena also wanted to give to other organizations championing change in the borough – especially those led by BIPOC community members. As the daughter of a preacher, Katrena had a practice of generosity instilled in her from a young age. “As I got older, I decided that I still wanted to keep the tradition of giving 10% of what I earned. But instead of giving it to the church I wanted to give to nonprofits or people that I saw were doing the work in the community for children and families,” she said.
The additional funds from the sale of her house gave Katrena a unique opportunity to contribute to the community for the long-term: “I was trying to figure out the right structured way I could donate the money — to give in a way that will be helpful to my community,” she explained. “I wanted to give back to Brooklyn, and that’s what Brooklyn Org is all about — they provide a structure and support for you to do that with your Donor Advised Fund,” she said.
Katrena was inspired to use her fund to support local youth and to address disparities in philanthropic spaces. As a nonprofit leader herself, she knows firsthand that racial discrimination affects which organizations receive funding, and wants to support BIPOC leaders who might be experiencing the same thing: “I wanted to give with a strategy that shed light to the problem of exclusionary funding practices, and to also be able to tell the story of a Black executive who has tried to build a nonprofit and fundraise for it in a way that hasn’t felt supported by most philanthropists,” she said.
Amidst this flawed system, Katrena is determined to call people in and support the truly life-changing work happening all over Brooklyn: “People have to be empowered to feel like they can liberate themselves,” she said. “If outside people control the decisions of how resources coming into the community are used – without various voices from the community at the table – it only perpetuates the myth that we can’t do it on our own.”
I wanted to give with a strategy that shed light to this problem of exclusionary funding practices, and to also be able to tell the story of a Black executive who has tried to build a nonprofit and fundraise for it in a way that hasn't felt supported by most philanthropists.Katrena Perou, DAF Holder
As a believer in the power of community-led impact, Katrena sees her Donor Advised Fund as a tool to amplify that work. “I know how discouraging it can be as a person of color running a nonprofit,” she shared. “That’s why I wanted to make that the heart of my Donor Advised Fund — to support people of color, and our community.”
Katrena recognizes that the true richness of Brooklyn comes from within, and that we have the opportunity to strengthen the borough when we come together: “There’s a lot of rich resources and smart, capable people within our communities that can build on solutions to problems, solutions that are already there.”