OPINION: The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, half full or half empty?

A large group partaking in the Ice Bucket Challenge
Credit: Elise Amendola, TIME

Social media has been taken by storm lately by the Ice Bucket Challenge. The concept is a simple dare; individuals are asked to pour a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads within a 24 hour period or else they must donate $100 to the ALS Association (a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Should they choose to dump the ice over their heads, they must film it, then post the video on to social media (such as Facebook or Instagram) and pass the challenge on to friends. Some variations call for a $10 donation even if the participant soaks him/herself.

At first glance, this trend might seem quite ridiculous; donate $100 or endure a cold bath for a couple short seconds? As ridiculous as such a task may seem, it has proven remarkably effective. The ALS Association has fully embraced this viral campaign and rightfully so; since July 29, donations to the campaign have reached 16 times the amount raised over the same period as last year ($31.5 million compared to under $2 million).

Outside of the large sum of money that has been raised by the campaign, it has also dramatically increased awareness for the disease and the research needed to tackle it. There is no denying that, or else there would not have been such a large increase in donations. It is extremely difficult to deride a campaign that has raised so much money and awareness. However, from a philanthropic point of view, the Ice Bucket Challenge does more harm than good.

Yes, this campaign has raised millions of dollars for research in combatting a horribly debilitating disease, which is marvelous in its own right;however the Ice Bucket Campaign is itself inherently negative. There exists this idea that being doused in freezing cold water is preferable to donating to ALS research, which is the wrong type of message that is being sent. The message that giving is positive and extremely rewarding needs to conveyed, not that it is a punishment, or an alternative to an ice-bath.

Additionally, these acts of charity seem to be more about the individual than the cause. Individuals attempt to think of creative ways to complete the challenge as a way of garnering more ‘likes’ on social media, usually at the expense of ALS entirely. Many videos hardly mention the disease and for many it is just a chance to do something out of the ordinary with friends.

Furthermore, the long-term prospects are hazy. What are the chances that those donating will continue to help past the first donation and become a consistent donor, or even just continue to show support for organizations fighting the cause in general? Here at the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) we make sure to actively engage with donors, provide strategic giving tools such as donor-advised funds, and create a relationship so as to encourage them to continue supporting our work, as well as causes that matter most to them. How will the various ALS organizations ensure the longevity of their donations made as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Rather than choosing the cold shower as an alternative to punishment in the form of a donation, I encourage others to donate along with the frigid bath, as well as provide information about the cause that the ALS Association represents and urge people to help any way they can. Or, why not just give directly and skip the ice bucket all together?  If helping those suffering from ALS is a cause that matters to you, then support it because it is a cause worth fighting for. What more motivation does one need to donate than a strong desire to help?

-Dillon Odeh

Intern, CAAP


Shining a Spotlight on CAAP’s 2014 Grantees

The Center of Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) has awarded grants to a total of 13 nonprofit organizations in six different states for 2014. With these grants, the organizations will continue working in their respective communities, providing a wide array of services including: advocacy, arts and culture, social services, and education. Two of this year’s grantees are highlighted below.

Somali Family Service of San Diego: A first-time grantee, Somali Family Service of San Diego (SFS) strives to achieve a better quality of life for the Somali and other East African population living in San Diego. To reach this goal, the SFS helps Somali and other East African families become responsible, fully-contributing members of their community by providing various services that promote health, educational and economic success, and develop leadership skills.

Recently, SFS held an event that focused on training individuals to be more culturally aware when it comes to health care. The event was titled “Providing Patient-Centered Healthcare to Somali Patients: A Cultural Sensitivity Training” and primarily worked on training to tackle some of the cultural barriers that are major contributors to the gap in healthcare and access to and delivery of the care.

Credit: Somali Services of San Diego Facebook Page

Mizna: Based in Minnesota, this organization is also devoted to the promotion of Arab American culture. Mizna creates a forum for the expression of the culture, giving a voice to Arab Americans through literature and art. Mizna presents various works from numerous Arab American artists, exposing the wider American audience to Arab culture and helping to counter the many stereotypes that exist against Arab Americans.

This September, Mizna will hold their 5th National RAWI + Mizna Literary Gathering, bringing together leading Arab American authors. In the past, such gatherings have included workshops on a multitude of topics, such as poetry, short stories, political and legal writing, sexuality, and more. This gathering provides an outlet for these writers, while also informing the public of the Arab culture.

Credit: Giovanna Nido

The SFS and Mizna only represent a small sample of the many organizations that are receiving grants from CAAP this year. For a complete list of grantees—as well as details on what the funds will be used for—visit the CAAP website.


Zack Bazzi and his “rapid impact” project to aid Syrian refugees

Lebanese American Zack Bazzi, a documentary filmmaker and Iraq War veteran, is on a mission to improve educational opportunities for Syrian children in refugee camps. While working as a consultant in Kurdistan, Iraq earlier this year, Bazzi decided to volunteer his time in the eight camps that house more than 240,000 Syrian refugees.

He realized that some children went to school without supplies, and decided to do something about it. By founding TentEd, along with fellow veterans Scott Quilty and Patrick Hu, he was able to leverage his networks and raise thousands of dollars for this “rapid impact” project, which directly provides school supplies, books, and teaching aids to students in refugee camps.

In addition, Bazzi was able to utilize remaining TentEd funds to further assist the displaced children, ensuring that 200 children from low-income households in Ebil are guaranteed bus rides to and from Garanawa Elementary School through September.  By relying on local volunteers and supporters, the remainder of the funds were invested where help was needed most, allowing Bazzi to “get more bang for the buck.”

Rabia, a single Syrian mother of five, provides evidence of the impact of Bazzi’s work. Prior to TentEd’s help in the region, Rabia struggled to sign her children up for school. “I could not afford it,” she said. But now, with the help of Bazzi and the Center for Arab American Philanthropy’s (CAAP) support, she has newfound hope, and her children are “making progress in life.”


Rabia and her family

Bazzi recognizes the difficulty in getting aid to areas of conflict, but he says, “there’s always a reason for you not to do something, but if you have a vision, there’s always a way.”

Zack will begin his master’s degree in Disaster Response Management at Georgetown University in the fall. We look forward to hearing more from this trailblazer, for whom “giving back is common sense.”

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Gaza crisis: How you can help


The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) is responding to the current tragedy affecting the civilian population of Gaza by researching organizations providing humanitarian aid to those in need. All of the organizations below meet CAAP’s due diligence standards for charitable donations.

ANERA: ANERA is delivering essential medicine and supplies to hospitals and clinics; purchasing and delivering food to displaced families; and delivering hygiene kits filled with basic sanitary supplies for displaced people. They also plan to help rebuild damaged hospitals, clinics, and schools, as well as reconnect homes to drinking water in communities hit hard by bombs. Learn more. Donate.

Catholic Relief Services: While Catholic Relief Services’ physical office space in Gaza is closed because of the risks, their team of 15 Gazan staff are still working from their homes, with support from CRS’ Jerusalem and Ramallah offices. They are delivering survival kits to displaced families, have begun procuring medical supplies for four Gaza hospitals/clinics, and are preparing their teams and local partner organizations to provide psycho-social support to deal with the massive trauma. Learn more. Donate.

Friends of UNRWA: UNRWA is providing shelter to more than 100,000 people in 68 designated emergency shelters in the Gaza strip. The priority is to provide food, water, sleeping, hygiene and cleaning items to those in need. They are also delivering diesel to water and sewage pump stations, conducting sanitation work, and operating health clinics. On July 21, more than 6,500 people visited UNRWA health clinics including 500 children. Learn more.Donate.

Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps reports that they have 85 team members and a network of over 50 community organizations working in Gaza to provide humanitarian aid. They are distributing emergency food and supply packages, and other basic necessities like blankets, baby wipes and diapers, detergent and hygiene items. Despite the volatile security situation, they have been able to deliver nearly 400 packages a day to various sites. Learn more. Donate.

Image courtesy andlun1


W.K. Kellogg Foundation awards $380,000 grant to the Center for Arab American Philanthropy

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded a $380,000 grant to the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP), a project of ACCESS. The grant will allow CAAP to expand its services and reach out to more members of the community to continue its mission of empowering Arab Americans, including youth, through philanthropy.

Funding from the grant will be used to launch additional Giving Circles, a new Women and Children’s Fund at CAAP that supports organizations serving low-income children, women and their families, and expansion of CAAP’s award-winning Teen Grantmaking Initiative (TGI) program nationwide.

“The Kellogg Foundation has been CAAP’s partner since our inception. We are so proud to have their ongoing support,” said Katherine Hanway, CAAP donor services and program officer. “This grant marks a pivotal point in CAAP’s development, as it will considerably expand our programs and services across the country. The grant allows us to positively impact our community, especially our young people.”

The Center for Arab American Philanthropy’s vision is to build a legacy of giving in the Arab American community, shaping the future of our society through the collective power of philanthropy and empowering others to be community builders. CAAP works with donors to invest their charitable dollars in organizations and programs across the United States. Learn more here.


Following the career paths of professionals of color in philanthropy


A new study commissioned by the D5 Coalition (a five-year initiative to advance philanthropy’s diversity, equity, and inclusion) explores the career pathways of professionals of color in the philanthropy sector. The study, based on semi-structured interviews conducted over the course of five months, analyzes the perceptions, analyses, and career histories of 43 philanthropic professionals of color. It asks three main questions:

  1. What are the career pathways of people of color in philanthropy in terms of how they enter the field and advance to higher levels of seniority?
  2. What factors do philanthropic professionals of color view as posing the greatest barriers and contributors to career advancement in the sector?
  3. What is the perceived value of and challenges to achieving greater leadership diversity in foundations from the perspective of professionals of color in the field? 

Prominent in the study’s findings was the discovery (not all together new) that institutional culture plays a tremendous role in contributing to career advancement. More specifically, “an institutional commitment to diversity on the part of the board and leadership at hiring foundations was perceived as a critical factor in facilitating career advancement for people of color.” Interviewees also expressed the importance of mentors and identity-based groups that create opportunities for networking and visibility. 

Emphasis was also placed on the value of “authentic inclusion,” in which “racial and ethnic diversity is not merely present, but valued with equal power given to diverse voices.” In other words, numbers aren’t the only important factor at play. 

For a more detailed account of the study’s findings, you can read the full report here or visit the D5 website and watch the accompanying webinar

Image courtesy ktikeda


Recapping “Commitment from the Top”: Organizational Culture, Leadership, and Racial Justice

According to the results of a soon-to-be-released study by Philanthropy Northwest, the culture of an organization is exactly as important as you might expect when it comes to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) among its employees. 

In a webinar aired last Thursday, “Commitment from the Top: The Role of CEO Commitment in Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” two participants from the study’s peer-learning cohort, Susan Anderson and Kris Hermanns, used their experiences promoting DEI in the workplace to elaborate on the findings of a year-long qualitative research study in which 33 philanthropic leaders were interviewed in the effort to understand how leadership influences the advancement of DEI in organizational structure.

The study’s findings? Policies and practices are important, but an organizational culture that promotes learning, inquiry, and dialogue is absolutely crucial for those policies to succeed. Issues of racial injustice need to be named and addressed if an organization hopes to move forward in its pursuit of DEI. In order for it to do that, it needs to cultivate an environment where these discussions can be most effectively had.

Read More


Introducing: The Racial Equity Resource Guide 


The WK Kellogg Foundation has unveiled an impressive new project geared toward communities in pursuit of racial equity and healing. Carefully curated and easy to navigate, the Racial Equity Resource Guide offers a treasure trove of information for individuals and organizations as they work toward achieving racial justice.

Keeping the diversity of these different communities in mind, one of the site’s biggest selling points is its customizability. Once you’ve registered and created an account, you can pick and choose from a number of organizations, guides, workshops, and resources and compile the information you find into your own personalized resource guide or “toolkit.” 

Perhaps most importantly, the Resource Guide reaffirms the importance of racial healing, equity, and justice by making these materials so accessible. In the words of the Guide itself, the hope is to combat racial inequity “by first putting it squarely in front of us.” 


Join NNAAC in its Campaign to #TakeOnHate


In celebration of its tenth anniversary this year, the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) invites you to TAKE ON HATE and participate in a multi-year campaign to eliminate discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans. 

Announced yesterday at a press conference in Washington, DC, the initiative is a powerful response to what NNAAC Director Nadia Tonova calls America’s “accepted bigotry” against an integral part of its society. Discrimination against Arabs and Muslims is “still happening,” “it’s still wrong,” and NNAAC is doing something about it.

TAKE ON HATE aims not only to alter public perception and right the wrongs of persistent misrepresentation, it also hopes to centralize Arab American voices and inspire change on the level of state and federal policy. It calls on all of us to make a difference through individual and community activism. 

For more information on how it hopes to accomplish these goals, check out TAKE ON HATE’s official website, and be sure to take on Twitter and Facebook as well.


CAAP announces new software for charitable account management


The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) today announces an exciting new partnership with Crown Philanthropic Services in the purchase of its DonorFirst online software platform. DonorFirst is now available to all our donor-advised fund holders and will allow fund holders to view all the details of their CAAP donor-advised fund, including fund balance, grant history, and contribution history. Fund holders will also be able to research nonprofits and make grant recommendations online 24/7.

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are one tool that allow donors to become more strategic in their philanthropy. DonorFirst software provides DAF holders all the convenience of online financial software, as well as higher autonomy in managing their charitable accounts.

To learn more about DonorFirst and how to set up a donor-advised fund, please visit or contact Katy Hanway, CAAP Donor Services & Program Officer at

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The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) strengthens the impact of strategic Arab American giving through education, asset building and grantmaking, in order to improve lives and build vibrant communities.

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