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Building Self-Sufficiency, Together

Philanthropic Black Women of Memphis

(Aug. 1, 2022) One is an accountant, another an engineer. There’s an information technology chief, a public relations executive, an attorney, a former plant manager, and several entrepreneurs.

The nine members of the Philanthropic Black Women of Memphis (PBWM) have followed different career paths, but they’ve all arrived at the same place: They’ve achieved economic security and self-sufficiency. Now they want to help more Memphis women be self-sufficient too.

“We are strong women, but we have a tender heart for children and women who are struggling,” said Deidre Malone, one of the founders of the group. “We support projects that focus on education, scholarship, career development, entrepreneurship, and health. We see these as tools to help women and girls take control of their lives.”

When PBWM was founded in 2005, the original members were all successful Black businesswomen who were already writing checks to charitable organizations. Could we have more impact, they began to wonder, if we pooled our resources? “It didn’t take long for us to figure out that we were like-minded in what we cared about,” said Deidre.

Each member contributes skills and knowledge that makes PBWM stronger. Deidre’s public relations firm helped create the PBWM website and edit the grant application so it was easy to understand. Some members work to spread the word in the community about application deadlines; others review all the grant applications.

“When it comes time to vote, most of us will have a favorite that we think deserves a grant, so there’s some politicking going on,” Deidre said. “We want to make sure that we use our funds for projects that are going to help the most people most efficiently. It’s the same thing we look for in business—a high return on investment.”

While past grants have supported the economic empowerment of adult women, many of PBWM’s grants target youth, including recent grant awards to New Ballet Ensemble and CodeCrew. “When we support scholarships, arts education, financial literacy projects, and the like, we have our eyes on self-sufficiency for the next generation of Memphis women,” Deidre said. “And we are always hoping that what young people learn, they will take home and share with their mothers.”

Updated from an article originally published in the 2013 Community Foundation Annual Report