Hattie Hill is President and CEO of T.D. Jakes Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) dedicated to building bridges to opportunity for underserved populations around the world. Before leading the launch of the foundation in January 2020, Hill spent more than 30 years working closely with Fortune 100 CEOs and executives to help them strengthen their companies and cultures through the creation of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.  

Russ Alan Prince: Tell us a little bit about yourself, T.D. Jakes Foundation’s mission, and how you became the CEO of the foundation.

Hattie Hill: For more than 30 years, I’ve worked with some of the world’s largest companies such as IBM, McDonald’s, and Southwest Airlines to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. I have always believed that diverse workplaces produce stronger cultures and better outcomes. When you bring together people from different backgrounds and lived experiences, you create greater collaboration and, ultimately, bottom-line growth. As a Black woman who grew up on a farm in Arkansas with five sisters and a single mother, I came to the workforce with a very different perspective from many of my colleagues. I was often the lone woman and person of color in a boardroom—and I’ve made it my life’s work not only to create more inclusive workplaces but to create systems and processes that support people of different walks of life and allow them to thrive. 

T.D. Jakes Foundation is committed to connecting underserved communities to life-changing opportunities. We do this by building bridges to opportunity, creating, with our partners, programs such as STEAM Academy, which is designed to expose young people from underrepresented communities to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math; and PATHWAYS, a workforce and community development program that connects people to living-wage jobs and sustainable career paths. 

I have known Chairman Jakes for many years. When he asked me to serve as president and CEO and to help launch the Foundation, I jumped at the opportunity to work with him to build his legacy. This role allows me to tap into more than 30 years of business relationships to expose people from underserved communities to new opportunities while helping to strengthen business through the creation of more-inclusive workplaces.  

Prince: With August Black Philanthropy Month, how do you think wealthy African American philanthropists can stay in touch with the most important initiatives that really can benefit from their funding? 

Hill: I think it’s important for people who want to give back to their communities to think about their background and what they specifically bring to the table. What skills or specialized knowledge do they have? What are they personally passionate about? What do they want their legacy to be? We’re always appreciative of people and organizations who want to make monetary donations, but we’ve found that philanthropists who combine their financial gifts with advocacy have a deeper and more lasting connection to the causes they care about. That’s one of the reasons Chairman Jakes launched T.D. Jakes Foundation, to create a bridge between business and community, need and opportunity. 

Through our partnerships, we offer many ways for people to give back—whether it’s making a monetary donation, lending their time and talents to one of our STEAM programs, or increasing the diversity of their workforce through our PATHWAY program. We believe that giving back benefits all involved, and we’ve set up our Foundation in a way that allows people to give back in all sorts of ways, to leverage their unique skillsets in service of their larger goals and priorities. 

Prince: T.D. Jakes Foundation, since its inception, has done some truly incredible work. What is next for the Foundation's programs like STEAM Academy and PATHWAY, and where do you hope to see its successes bring you five years from now?

Hill: Our next initiative builds on the partnership we fostered last year with Broadway Dallas which was previously Dallas Summer Musicals and the Dallas Independent School District for our “Hamilton”-themed STEAM Academy. This fall, we are once again partnering with Broadway Dallas, Dallas Independent School District, the Dallas Mavericks, and several corporate sponsors to offer a STEAM Academy for select Dallas high school students around the hit musical “Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations.” This program will focus on lighting and sound design and, like our “Hamilton”-themed Academy, culminate with students and teaching artists viewing a production of the musical. 

With PATHWAY, we continue to add employers and candidates to our program, which provides a variety of community building and workforce opportunities for underrepresented communities. Looking ahead, we are focusing on extending both these programs beyond Dallas to key cities nationally and internationally. 

Prince: The Foundation has developed a highly successful partnership with The Dallas Mavericks organization for the STEAM Academy most recently. How would you like to see other companies partner with T.D. Jakes Foundation for future philanthropic initiatives?

Hill: The Dallas Mavericks have been phenomenal partners. From the beginning, the Mavericks have supported our efforts, helping us acquire laptops and hotspots for our first virtual STEAM Academy during the early days of COVID-19. Over the past two and a half years, the Mavericks have continued to provide critical resources for our various programs, including our most recent STEAM Academy Hackathon. One of the reasons this partnership has been so successful is because it aligns with the Mavericks’ priorities. In 2020, the Mavericks launched its TakeACTION! program, which is designed to address racial inequalities, promote social justice, and drive change within the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The TakeACTION! program focuses on driving change through six systems—public policy, education, criminal justice, employment, child welfare, and healthcare. With this program, the Dallas Mavericks have created an important framework that can serve as a model for other businesses. We hope and encourage other organizations to apply a similar framework to their giving, which ensures partners are accountable for helping to meet their goals. 

RUSS ALAN PRINCE is the Executive Director of Private Wealth magazine (pw-mag.com) and Chief Content Officer for High-Net-Worth Genius (hnwgenius.com). He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs, and select professionals.