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Meet a Millennial Philanthropist: Naima Murphy

Naima Murphy has always supported causes that are close to her. Growing up, she had two active role models in her parents, both of whom worked in spaces championing collective equality for Black people. Her dad was a civil rights lawyer while her mom was a social worker, and they demonstrated that everyone has a role to play in society’s progress. In addition to her parents’ professions, Naima’s family volunteered and made contributions to organizations they care about.

Most of Naima’s professional career has been in the nonprofit sector. She is currently the Director of Partnerships at Monument Lab, a public art and history studio that cultivates and facilitates critical conversations about the past, present, and future of public art and monuments. Through the pandemic, she has also been an active contributor to mutual aid funds and the community fridges in her neighborhood. Naima is a former Spruce Foundation board member who started as a volunteer reviewing our grant applications. She is currently on a committee for community engagement and access for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and served as a grant panelist for the Philadelphia Culture Fund in 2019.

Philanthropy is, to Naima, something everyone can be a part of, personally and institutionally. Having worked in the fundraising space, Naima recognizes that there is a perception that philanthropy is owned by the richest people in society. However, sharing resources is something that we’re all capable of doing and that many already champion within their own communities. “Just look at Spruce’s origin story, of friends coming together, pooling their funds to support youth-focused organizations in Philly.” She cites Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva as a great read that helped her see how individual and institutional philanthropy can work together to dismantle the structures of inequity.

Becoming a mom changed Naima’s sense of philanthropy — most notably, her sense of urgency. “Watching my daughter grow so quickly, I want to continue to make things better for her so she can thrive. I want to arm her with what she needs to navigate a world that doesn’t respect Black life. I want her to grow up feeling safe, joyful, confident, and prosperous.”

For those who don’t think of themselves as “philanthropists,” Naima says the first step is being an active learner. Get to know your community, find organizations that are making an impact in the causes you care about, and volunteer. Then make a line item in your budget for giving. It’s never too early, or too late, to get started. “People look at children as the next generation that can fix society, but we’re still here. We don’t get to hang up that responsibility yet.”