How AAPIP is Building Democratic Philanthropy

Philanthropy411, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Danielle M. Reyes, Senior Program Officer at The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

by Danielle M. Reyes

There were no scrambled eggs at this live-streamed* breakfast meeting.  This morning more than 100 community leaders, giving circle grantees, friends, and members of Asian Americans Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) convened over Dim Sum for AAPIP’s Annual Membership Meeting and Community Program.  In addition to dumplings and egg rolls, attendees were treated to, and hopefully inspired by, presentations from numerous and diverse voices from this growing network.  In fact, more than 25 chapter co-chairs and representatives presented during this morning’s meeting, in addition to a panel of local funders who discussed Philadelphia’s fastest growing community – Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.

The format of this meeting speaks to AAPIP’s effort to build democratic philanthropy through its philanthropic advocacy and community philanthropy programs and members, many of whom participate in a robust and active network of regionally based chapters and giving circles throughout the country.

From Boston to Minnesota to Silicon Valley, AAPIP chapter co-chairs reported that they had organized activities on topics ranging from increasing API participation on nonprofit boards, to addressing health disparities in the API community.  They conducted mentoring programs for foundation staff and collaboratied locally with joint affinity group partners.  In addition to chapter updates, we heard of more than $100,000 in grants made by AAPIP affiliated giving circles, which have now grown to 14 circles across the country.

For me, AAPIP’s chapters and affiliated giving circles represent a decentralized community-based movement in philanthropy – and just writing that gets me excited!  AAPIP is not only raising awareness of the needs of API communities in the United States and the lack of philanthropic resources allocated to these communities.  It is engaging individuals on a professional and personal level to not only connect philanthropic resources to API communities, but take an active role in creating those resources.

“Giving Circles are the most empowered place to be,” said Peggy Saika, executive director of AAPIP, during her closing statements. “We’re not waiting for anyone else to decide what is needed. We come together, we decide, and we give!”

Truth and evidence of this sentiment was repeated again and again as attendees addressed the group.  Daniel Jae-Won Lee, executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation and new member of the Council of Foundation’s board of directors noted that he was not only a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of AAPIP, but a proud personal donor of the Lunar Giving Circle.  Gayle Isa, executive director of the Asian Arts Initiative spoke of the value of being a grantee as well as  the importance of being a personal donor of the Asian Mosaic Fund Giving Circle here in Philadelphia.   I, too, am proud to have served as a co-chair of the Washington, DC /Baltimore Chapter, chair of AAPIP’s national board of directors, and to have been a founding donor of the Cherry Blossom Giving Circle in DC.

In this way, AAPIP really is building democratic philanthropy, member by member, chapter by chapter, giving circle by circle, community by community.  It’s a philanthropic movement about people, and – like giving circles – it’s power comes not from being linear, but being circular.

As the field of philanthropy seeks to innovate, grow, influence, and inform, there is much to be learned from AAPIP’s social justice work.   I, for one, think dumplings and democracy go very well together.*the live-stream was made possible with support from Bank of America

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Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

3 thoughts on “How AAPIP is Building Democratic Philanthropy”

  1. The AAPIP session was one of the most energizing I have attended in a long time. The power of giving circles (and community) really came to the surface. The community program highlighted the challenges we face specifically as Asian Americans in Philanthropy but also the broader questions we ask ourselves as grantmakers (particularly in terms of funding strong versus developing organizations).

  2. AAPIP’s annual membership meeting and national strategy session with chapter leaders was inspiring. The contributions from AAPIP members really showed to me how AAPIP is building democratic philanthropy, getting more and more people involved in developing and coordinating their giving strategies to address needs of certain communities of color that have been largely ignored by traditional philanthropic institutions. After attending the meeting, I also wrote and published a short piece on informal giving circles and AAPIP on the Nonprofit Law Blog – Informal Giving Circles

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