While fans eagerly anticipate Rihanna’s next musical offering, the star of this year’s Super Bowl halftime show has been keeping busy with her philanthropic endeavors through her Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF).
Established in 2012 in honor of Rihanna’s grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite, CLF’s early efforts were centered in Barbados, where the foundation’s first grant of $452,000 was used to improve clinical cancer care at a local hospital.
Since then, the scope of CLF’s work has expanded globally, providing funding in 50 US states and seven Caribbean countries. With over $100 million in grants distributed, CLF has gained a reputation for its trailblazing approach to social change and community-led initiatives.
According to Tyeshia Wilson, an expert on Black philanthropy, Rihanna’s philanthropic efforts deserve just as much recognition as her music, as she is changing the face and narrative of Black philanthropy.
The Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) is leading the way in philanthropy through its innovative approach to giving. With a focus on three main priorities – climate resilience, climate justice, and legacy projects in Barbados – CLF is making a difference in communities around the world.
Rihanna herself is actively involved in the foundation’s work, personally approving all grants and donations that are distributed.
CLF’s approach to giving, referred to as “trust-based” philanthropy, is disrupting traditional power structures in the industry by empowering those closest to the problem to make decisions on how donated funds should be used.
CLF also takes an intersectional approach, recognizing the complex intersection of factors that contribute to inequities. As a result, 95% of CLF’s partners are entities led by women, youth, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ communities.
An example of CLF’s intersectional approach is its investment in making reproductive and sexual health clinics in the Caribbean resilient to natural disasters, ensuring that crucial services are not interrupted.
CLF’s approach to giving has earned recognition from Tyeshia Wilson, an expert on Black philanthropy, who emphasizes the importance of who is supported in addition to how support is provided. According to CLF’s executive director, Justine Lucas, CLF is proud to be making a difference in this way.Wilson praised the CLF for its collaboration with other philanthropic organizations.
The foundation partners with other funders, pooling resources and giving decision-making power to local grassroots groups.
Some of its funding partners include Start Small LLC, run by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, which donated $18 million to CLF in 2022.
CLF has also worked with the Open Societies Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation on climate resilience initiatives.
Along with the Ford Foundation and Pivotal Ventures, CLF signed an open letter last month calling for more funding for Black feminist organizations.
Rihanna’s fans can also support her philanthropic efforts by donating directly to the Clara Lionel Foundation on its website or while shopping at Fenty Beauty.
Lucas expressed gratitude for all contributions, including those from Rihanna’s dedicated fanbase, the “Navy”.
Rihanna has made history in both the fashion and philanthropy industries.
As the first Black woman to create a fashion line with LVMH, she has also become a billionaire through her ownership of the popular makeup line Fenty Beauty.
Despite her wealth, Wilson sees Rihanna’s philanthropy as a model that can inspire anyone, especially due to its focus on collaboration.
Philanthropy Together, where Wilson serves as the director of engagement, teaches people how to start giving circles, a method of charitable giving rooted in the West African and Caribbean concept of “ubuntu”.
According to Wilson, Rihanna is breaking barriers and changing the narrative of who can be considered a philanthropist.