Kia Croom is a nonprofit leader and fund development professional who is passionate about social justice and education initiatives. She works with the Children’s Defense Fund and founded the Croom Institute for Fund Development and Social Change. To date, she has raised almost $400 million for nonprofits across the country that support communities of color and combat poverty.
“My lived experience really informs my approach and my passion for the work,” she says.
Growing up in East Oakland, Kia experienced abject poverty and broken school systems.
Starting at 5 years old, her mom put her on a public bus so she could attend a better school in a different part of town.
“I survived a lot. And I don’t believe that I saw what I saw and I survived what I survived in vain,” she explains.
One morning when she and her mom were walking to the bus stop, Kia saw a man sleeping on the sidewalk. Her mom explained homelessness and, that morning, Kia set a goal she would later fulfill.
“I said, when I grow up, I’m going to build a big place so that people don’t have to live outside,” Kia shares.
Years later, when Kia was working with H.O.P.E. Through Divine Intervention, she helped secure a $1.7 million grant which the organization used to redevelop an apartment complex into housing for people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.
“And in my own way, I really believe that I realized that ambition and that goal that I declared at five to build a place where people that don’t have a place to live, can live,” she adds.
Finding Her Way to Fundraising
Kia left California to study journalism at Clark Atlanta University. While she didn’t initially set out to work in fundraising, it wasn’t long before this career path found her.
“I was still very much motivated by civic engagement and social change,” she says.
She first started volunteering with H.O.P.E. Through Divine Intervention while working on her graduate thesis on homelessness. When the executive director learned about her background in journalism, they asked Kia to help write a grant application. The organization was awarded the grant – which led to Kia being offered a job.
“I got so much great experience and I had all this great on-the-job training, working in this small nascent nonprofit. And from there, I was able to do things I never imagined,” she explains.
In her 8 years with H.O.P.E. Through Divine Intervention (during which she secured the $1.7 million grant for the housing complex) Kia gained a deep understanding of the science of nonprofit work.
Moving forward, she has used what she learned from this experience to shape her professional journey. She founded Fundraising in Black and started The Black Fundraisers’ Podcast to share conversations about philanthropy from the Black perspective.
Her Advice on Motivation and Mentorship
“What I want people to know about poverty,” she says, “poverty is a thief. Poverty steals dreams from little Black girls and little Black boys, from anybody who is living in poverty.”
And her lived experience growing up in poverty keeps her motivated to stay in the work. “So when I get up every day, and I’m doing the work that I’m doing, I’m doing the work to abate poverty, but to also liberate people’s minds,” she explains.
Kia knows that doing this work can be extremely heavy so she advises young women to find a mentor or a sponsor who can keep them grounded. She also supports women of color working in a job that feels inclusive.
“I encourage women, particularly women of color, to work in places where they feel they belong, where they can bring themselves where they can bring their ideas to the work,” she advises.
Ultimately, Kia is proud of her career path because she’s had the opportunity to work with organizations of all sizes that are helping to fight inequities.
“I’m just really humbled to have had some of the wonderful experiences that I’ve had and I want to share my learnings with other individuals engaged in or passionate or interested in his work,” she shares.
To learn more about her initiatives, Kia encourages people to connect with her at people to connect with me at www.kiacroom.com and via LinkedIn and IG @kiacroom.