In the spring of 2020, brothers Kenneth Chenault (MBA 2019) and Kevin Chenault (MBA 2021) witnessed a series of heartbreaking events. They watched alongside the rest of the world as Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade were targeted in public places for the color of their skin, and while these were not the first incidents of racial injustice of this kind, the Chenaults wanted to do their part to make them the last.

Starting the Anti-Racism Fund

As Kevin completed his first year at HBS, he made plans to spend the summer as an HBS Summer Fellow pursuing his passion for media. Meanwhile, Kenneth was completing his first year as an Investor at General Catalyst. Both were excited about building careers in industries they loved while utilizing their unique skills and interests. Then, as the world looked on at the atrocities and racial disparity happening in the United States, the Chenault brothers and their four co-founders, Carter Lewis (MBA 2023), Lindsey Ferguson, Nicolle Mora, and Sesana Allen, found themselves in deep discussions about how they could help solve a centuries old problem once again brought to the forefront of national attention.

“People we knew were coming to us wanting to know how they could offer support, where they should donate, and how to make an impact, and we were wondering that ourselves,” said Kenneth. “To provide one answer, we decided to start a GoFundMe page that would distribute funds to four organizations equally, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, The Loveland Foundation, Reclaim the Block, and The Bail Project.” The GoFundMe page for the newly formed Anti-Racism Fund raised $40,000 in less than 12 hours, with donations quickly reaching over $200,000.

As the fundraising numbers steadily increased, Kenneth and Kevin saw that the reach of the Anti-Racism Fund had grown well beyond their networks and that there was something there they could harness to propel their efforts forward. Next steps would be to turn this fundraiser into a sustainable organization that would capitalize on the current energy and passion around issues of racism in the US and make long-term change. The team transformed the Anti-Racism Fund GoFundMe project into a nonprofit organization, ARF, and then set off to make that organization the best it could be.

The Power of Asking for Help

With assistance from the HBS Summer Fellowship Program, Kevin dove into getting ARF off the ground as his full-time role over the summer. Kenneth and their four other co-founders continued to work full-time in other roles while also dedicating time to building ARF. The professional and personal networks they had all built and were continuing to build made significant contributions to ARF both financially and operationally.

“As young people who had never set up a nonprofit before, getting advice and building partnerships with those willing to help out has been invaluable,” said Kenneth. “We know the strength that can come from utilizing your network, particularly a network like HBS.” Furthermore, Kenneth, Kevin, and their team recognize that the nature of nonprofit work is about asking for help. Kenneth added “We’re asking the world for help to resolve these inequalities, we should have no problem asking others for their expertise on what we don’t know.” For example, without a background in website design, the ARF founders turned to Kevin’s classmate, Brendan Lind (JD/MBA 2023) who designed the organization’s online presence used for sharing information and accepting donations. 

Kenneth and Kevin are also leaning on each other for help. Kenneth brings the financial background, Kevin brings skills in marketing, and they have paired their expertise together for this organization. “We’ve known each other for 28 years, but this is the biggest project we have ever worked on together. It’s been great working with my brother towards our goal of making sure this isn’t just a moment for racial justice, it’s a movement,” said Kevin.

The Future of ARF

In addition to the support of a strong network, Kenneth and Kevin are also taking lessons from the HBS classroom with them as they build their organization. “HBS is teaching me that transparency is key,” said Kevin with a shout out to Professor Paul Healy and the Leadership and Corporate Accountability course. “At ARF we don’t just make making donations easier, we tell the story about how the money is spent. We’ll continue to be transparent as we scale, that’s how we will have long term success.”

Looking forward, the ARF team plans to continue focusing on their four Pillars of Purpose – Justice System Reform, Education Parity, Health & Wellness Access, and Community Outreach & Social Justice Advocacy – while transforming the giving process. “We want to become an evergreen foundation to continue spreading awareness, building support, and tackling the complex issues with our existing core organizations and beyond,” Kenneth said. Kevin added, “We also want to increase touchpoints with donors. It doesn’t stop with a one-time donation, or a monthly donation, there are additional ways to activate anti-racism allies and we want to diversify how we can help communities of color.”

As ARF grows and evolves, there are three things the Chenault brothers and their team know will remain the same: a commitment to transparency, integrity in leadership, and a willingness to change. “We started as a GoFundMe, and when we reached the point of either closing up shop or launching an organization, we knew we weren’t going to be day one experts,” noted Kenneth. “But getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, that’s where the best success comes from.”