Member Highlight: Susan Taylor Batten

This profile is part of an occasional series highlighting speakers at SECF’s 49th Annual Meeting. To learn more, visit the Annual Meeting website!

On the second day of SECF’s 49th Annual Meeting, attendees have a chance to attend a special session focused on the systems and policies that perpetuate socioeconomic disparities. The session, An Unvarnished Look at Poverty Through History’s Tarnished Lens, will explore policy-driven inequity and philanthropy’s role in dismantling it.

One of the panelists at this session, Susan Taylor Batten, has emerged as one of the leading voices calling on philanthropy, and the infrastructure that supports it, to engage head-on with these issues. Susan is part of that infrastructure herself as president and CEO of ABFE, the Association of Black Foundation Executives.

Susan believes philanthropy-supporting organizations (PSOs) can be leaders in the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion within the sector – and she offers concrete steps they can take.

“Given the leadership of several funders, PSOs are receiving substantial support to help their members adopt a racial equity frame in their work,” she recently wrote on ABFE’s website. “Activities range from organizing ongoing learning and training series for their foundation members to regional multi-sector efforts that extend beyond philanthropy on racial equity.”

Susan believes PSOs can go even further, however – they can “move money, just like foundations do, for equity.” How? By investing some of their own money in minority-owned banks, which serve populations often neglected by the traditional banking sector.

“These banks are critically important as they tend to be more accessible to lower-wealth communities and specifically cater to populations who are detached from the conventional banking system,” she wrote. “Black-owned banks are present in neighborhoods that are void of financial institutions and can provide access to safe, accessible and affordable bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages and business loans.”

Susan joined ABFE as president and CEO in January 2009. ABFE’s mission is to promote effective and responsive philanthropy in black communities and counts among its members some of the most influential staff, trustees and donors of grantmaking institutions in the U.S. Under her leadership, ABFE has expanded its base of programming and membership across the country.

She is also a co-founder of the Race and Equity in Philanthropy Group and serves on the board of the United Philanthropy Forum. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and political science from Fisk University, and her master’s degree in social work from Howard University in Washington, D.C.


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