Black businesses and nonprofits always seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to funding. Not anymore. Where can they find the money to stay afloat? Grants. With Shaun Glaze leading the way, Inclusive Data has helped Black communities receive over $18M in grants since May 2020 through a combination of grant strategy and grant writing. They are pulling the Black community together through their combined background in research, fundraising, and family therapy. Whether it's through free Black funding challenges on social media or their signature Grant Slayer Academy, Shaun Glaze and Inclusive Data are equipping the community with the strategies, tools, and activities to get ahead.
Jouviane: Let’s jump right in. I’m excited to introduce our OBWS readers to you and your business. To start, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, both personally and professionally, and how you think that led to you becoming an entrepreneur?
Shaun: I’m Shaun Glaze, and I use they/them pronouns. I’m originally from Texas — Houston, specifically. I always knew that I wanted to either be a researcher or a doctor. It wasn’t until the end of my college experience that I knew I was going to be a researcher. I went to UT Austin for undergrad, took a child development class, and I was like “Yes, I’m in love with research.” I did my Master’s in family therapy with no intentions of being a family therapist.
I want to understand how families, systems, relationships, and policy come together to create what we need to thrive. I did my Master’s in family therapy, and during that time, I worked as a research assistant to really honein on that skill set. And I fell in love with this type of research called participatory action research. If you took traditional research and activism and had a baby, it would be participatory action research — doing work with the community to change policy or to change practices to improve our lives. I did this for three years and we changed local, state, and federal policy and practices as part of that work. It hit me then that I want to do this forever.
I went to do my PhD studies at Boston College to really focus on this kind of research. So there, I specialized in a degree program, called applied developmental and educational psychology, that I’m hoping I’ll be done within a month or two. My advisor and I specialize in participatory action research, and she specializes in immigration policy. I studied with her, and we did that work together for almost five years. After Boston, I moved back to Texas, but after the 2016 Presidential Election, I moved to Seattle with my wife and child.
In terms of how this relates to entrepreneurship, I’ve always been really passionate about community — not just telling our own story, but really creating our own solutions and having those solutions be robustly supported. I really do believe that Black liberation is something that can happen right now, and last year really crystallized that for me.
Last year was when I started my company. Around May 2020, I saw the uprisings that were happening. The pandemic was happening. There are all these things that are targeting Black folks for bad outcomes, but there’s also all of this funding that’s targeting us. None of the founders have any Black friends, and they don’t know where to find it. All the Black folks I know don’t know how to navigate this space of philanthropy and contracts, and it’s just a train wreck waiting to happen. And I refuse to go down like this so I started Inclusive Data.
Jouviane: Did your original plan for Inclusive Data come to life? If not, how has it changed?
Shaun: I initially thought that I’d be helping people with getting certified and contracting with the government — things that I knew would help with long term sustainability. What I realized was that a lot of Black folks didn’t even know about a lot of this stuff. And if they did, they thought it was something that could pay off maybe later, but they needed funding at the moment. So it clicked that they need grants, and I have over 10 years of experience. I’ve been on funding boards. I’ve written grants. I’ve edited bill budgets. And so we made that shift in September 2020. By December, we got over 5 million dollars for Black nonprofits and Black small businesses.
Early 2021, I thought to scale this. What I see in the communities that I’m connected to is a lot of Black folks where mindset gets in the way. I remember I’d get so mad at people when they say there’s a mindset issue in the Black community. I’d get so mad because how dare they? There’s structural racism and institutional oppression that’s been going on for decades. And it’s true, all that’s true, but there are ripple effects to all of that. The ripple effects include mindset stuff. Which is why, last year, when I was working with people, I’d tell them about money opportunities, but they’d be focused on something else. Some of them would think that they’re not smart enough or that they’d have to be well positioned to get funds.
Jouviane: It’s really impressive how you’re able to transition back and forth between research, grant writing, and handling business matters for Black entrepreneurs.
Shaun: To be honest, when I was listening to all their objections, I was just learning about business. I’m really good at writing grants, but the business side is still new to me. I didn’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. My mom was a single mom for most of my life, and as the oldest of five, we don’t really know anyone that’s above our generation. So we just exist.
We didn’t have role models to show us how to run a business. So going back to my goal two Decembers ago, I decided to focus on scale. In January, I was talking to people and sharing everything I know how to do. In the end, I realized that I needed to make a class and download all of my brain into that class and that would be how we scale. We’d be able to get this class into the community’s hands and be able to make a huge impact.
I designed my class to where people could take one to two hours a week and actually be able to get results for six weeks. With that in mind, I created a lot of videos because people aren’t going to read a bunch of stuff. They’re pre-recorded so busy parents could do it. These classes are my playbook — my exact templates, the process, how I do it. And that was most of 2021 in terms of the class, but I continue to support people on grant writing and grant strategy. We’re at over $12 million for 2021, not counting the $5 million from 2020.
Jouviane: I’m not going to lie. Hearing the word “million” has stars in my eyes!
Shaun: What’s really exciting is we’ve supported about half a billion dollars worth of grant proposals that were submitted in 2021. And we’ll find out how many of those turn into actual grants this year, but I feel really solid about some of those grants.
Jouviane: As you’ve explained your journey to this point, you’ve given us a glimpse into Inclusive Data. What is Inclusive Data and what is it that your company does for Black businesses and nonprofits?
Shaun: Inclusive Data is a consulting firm that offers grant strategy and grant writing. We work on collaborative grants for Black small businesses and nonprofits. Our main thing is that we teach people how to do what we do. While I do take on some grant writing clients, my main emphasis is on the education piece because I want us to have the tools we need to get free. I don’t know anyone else who is hyperfocused on how grant funding can be helpful for really advancing liberation. But it’s a lot more than just getting funding.
It’s not like the answer is to just focus on getting Black folks a bunch of money because the systems and structure that are in place are still targeting us for death. Being able to get a bunch of money isn’t the end goal, but the way that we do this, we radically shift how people think about the flow of wealth and about their place in it. And so we teach people how to get grants without writing them.
Jouviane: You briefly touched on your class, so let’s switch our focus to that. Inclusive Data is doing a lot to help Black entrepreneurs through your Grant Slayer Academy. If you could, tell us more about this class and its benefits for Black small businesses and nonprofits.
Shaun: Grant Slayer Academy is our signature course. I designed it with the idea of a single mom that’s working one or two jobs. How can she be in a position to get grants without writing them? That’s a huge focus of the class. We do teach grant writing, too. A lot of people join thinking that they’re going to learn how to be a grant writer. And I mean, you can learn grant writing, but what are the things you’re good at and how do those things connect to grants?
So if you’re a visual artist, like a storyteller or filmmaker, there are a lot of other ways that you can get grants that don’t require a grant proposal. And we teach this in the class. Or say you have a company that has a board of some sort. How do you make good use of them? Where do you position them so that they’re building relationships with philanthropy and other heavily financed people? And once you have those relationships, what do you say to get them to flip into a grant situation?
Those kinds of concrete skills are illustrative examples. But as I said before, we do teach writing, of course, and we teach collaboration.
Jouviane: I can understand how Grant Slayer Academy teaches writing, but how does one teach collaboration?
Shaun: So as you might imagine, for someone that has a Master’s in family therapy, I think a lot about relationships. I think about trauma. I think about how, as Black folks, we carry a lot of trauma in terms of relationships. And the class actually has strategies, tools, and activities to disrupt that.
I think the relationship pieces are really key. Part of what happens is, a lot of people don’t want to collaborate with other folks or they don’t want to collaborate with Black people. In some cases, they trust other community members more than their own. And that’s for a variety of reasons, right? But what would it look like if we were able to have better relationships and better collaborations where not only are things clearer and more transparent, but they’re designed to be an antidote to the oppression that we’re living through. So even if you don’t get funded, you’re still doing some repair work that can help our community be stronger.
That is the Grant Slayer Academy class. It’s a lot of fun putting it together, and we’ve seen success on both the for profit and nonprofit side.
Jouviane: Inclusive Data is clearly doing some amazing things right now, and before I move on to what’s in its future, I’d like to focus on something else you currently have going on. You are the director of the world’s largest Black community research project. Can you tell us more about that?
Shaun: 2020 was a really busy year for me. I launched my company in May. And then in June, we had kicked off, what was later known as, the Black Brilliance Research Project. That was amazing to be a part of because I’ve done participatory action research for years, but there hadn’t been an opportunity like this to use it to really address systemic harm.
There’s a small group of organizers who wrote what was called the blueprint — the 2020 blueprint for police divestment and community reinvestment. I am one of the authors on that and we presented it to our council which led to the research project. We hired over 100 community members to do this from all walks of life — elders, refugees, transplants, disabled, queer, straight, Muslim, Christian. We used all these different kinds of blackness to explore three key questions: What creates true community safety? What creates true community health? What do we need to thrive? Then it spun into about 40 projects exploring that.
We also designed the mechanism of how that wealth will be redistributed based on Black priorities. There’s $30 million that will be moving through that process this year in Seattle and about $10 million moving at the county level.
My main role as research direct and research co-lead, is that I co-lead this project with Letania Severe. They are a firefighter, professional researcher, and former basketball champion. We run this project together, and our main roles are to facilitate. We find out what the community wants to do, and then we support.
One of our projects that I’m extremely proud of is that while in partnership with other organizations, we’re definitely leading and creating free internet that is based on community-owned and community-led internet. It involves creating the internet through these towers and then broadcasting it so that people can get online and have the things they need during these special COVID times where everything is online, including the government.
Jouviane: Now, let’s touch on the future. Where would you like to see Inclusive Data and Grant Slayer Academy in the future?
Shaun: I think we’ve had the first big spurt of funding. There’s another spurt happening because it’s the way policy usually works. When people made commitments in 2020, we’re just starting to see those commitments come in 2022. We’re just starting to see investments based on where people were at during the uprisings. I think we have another two years, but we’ll see.
Within the next two years, I see Inclusive Data doing more business accelerators and business incubators. We do cohorts there where we train cohorts of Black and brown businesses to learn new skills. So whether that’s in partnership with the Black Chamber of Commerce or another Black-focus entrepreneurship group, I think we’ll be selling more cohorts, bringing in more people, training them all at the same time.
For nonprofits, I think we’ll be doing a lot more apprenticeship. We launched our apprentices program last year. We’ll do a soft launch this year. We fully onboard where we take people who’ve gone through Grant Slayer Academy and who really want to be a grant writer and let them apprentice with us. In the next two years, I can see us having about a dozen apprentices that are fairly independent, not quite employees, who will write for nonprofits and small businesses that don’t have a lot of local resources.
In five years, there will be many people who will have trained underneath us and who will be innovating in their own way. In ten years, what’d I’d love to see if not within five, would be this knowledge being really commonplace within the Black community. Getting all this knowledge into the community’s hands is powerful.
Jouviane: Okay, we’ve come to the last question. You’ve shared a lot of great information, but if you were in a room with one Official Black Wall Street reader and there was one thing you should share with them about Inclusive Data, what would it be?
Shaun: Oh man, I have so many thoughts. Do I tell them about not getting taken advantage of? There are people out there, including a very famous person, who is focused on grants as well. And they haven’t been showing up in ways that could be described as ethical. It’s very difficult to watch. It’s definitely possible for us, even as beginners in this space, to create our own solutions without having to compromise ourselves and our relationships.
There are people out here, like us, who genuinely want folks to be successful. The best thing that we can offer is education because that helps you not get taken advantage of. I think that’s probably the most useful thing.
Inclusive Data Funding Challenges:
Inclusive Data's December 2021 free funding challenge generated over $100K in under one week for Black small businesses and nonprofits. These daily social media challenges can bring you closer to funding. Check out their most recent challenge at www.InclusiveDataChallenge.com.
To learn more about Shaun Glaze and Inclusive Data, visit: http://www.inclusivedatasolutions.com/