Some excerpts from…
Recently, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) published a report detailing the evolution of Arab American philanthropy and its future in Michigan. Drawing on original research and from an event that CAAP hosted earlier this year, CMF relates Arab American philanthropy to the larger movement for more inclusive and diverse philanthropy in the U.S. We’ve included a few excerpts from the publication below, and you can read the entire report and access other resources on our website.
While participating in a philanthropic organization like CAAP is a relatively new concept for many Arab Americans, the practice of giving of one’s time, talents, and treasure to helping others is a long cherished and deeply rooted tradition in the community. Through CAAP, these donors are providing important support for new immigrants, new community organizations, educational programs and recreational facilities for children and youth, and international humanitarian aid for those affected by war, drought, famine, and disease.
Arab American and mainstream philanthropic leaders in Michigan and throughout the U.S. acknowledge the importance of developing new strategic and collaborative efforts with this burgeoning ethnic giving population. According to Steve Lawrence, the Foundation Center’s director of research, Arab American philanthropy is one of the largest untapped sectors in terms of projected current and future dollars that are expected to come from this constituency group, second only to the Asian American community.
There is great power in participating in philanthropy as part of a cultural group. However, hailing from 22 countries that share as many cultural, linguistic, political, and religious commonalities as differences, first-generation immigrants from the Arab world do not always identify as Arab American. Even after a generation or two has passed, Arab Americans may still choose to identify themselves as Syrian American or Egyptian American, rather than as Arab American. And, politics in the Arab world have the power to both unite and divide the community. This diversity constitutes significant challenges to a broad vision for Arab American philanthropy.
Arab fall film festivals
Several of our grantees are holding film fests this fall with selections that will be sure to entertain and inform even the most discerning movie-goer.
To kick off the film festival season, on October 5 the Boston Palestine Film Festival will present Habibi, directed by Susan Youssef, a story of forbidden love, and the first fiction feature set in Gaza in 15 years.
Two Palestinian students in the West Bank are forced to return home to Gaza, where their love defies tradition. To reach his lover Layla, Qays grafittis poetry across town. Habibi is a modern re-telling of the famous ancient Sufi parable Majnun Layla.
The film trailer is available here.
Beginning October 11, the Arab Film Festival will be presenting several films throughout California. Opening in San Francisco, The Man Without a Cell Phone tells the story of
twenty-something Palestinian-Israeli slacker Jawdat just wants to have fun with his friends, talk on his cell phone and find love. Meanwhile, his curmudgeonly olive-farming father, Salem, is determined to drag Jawdat and his whole community into a fight against a nearby Israeli cell phone tower he fears is poisoning the villagers with radiation. As Salem’s efforts to remove the tower disrupt Jawdat’s precious cell phone reception and communication with his potential girlfriends, Jawdat is forced to face the battle and grow up.
The Arab Film Festival will showcase this and many other selections from throughout the Arab World.
Last but not least, the Arab American Heritage Club will be hosting their annual Arabic Film Series beginning October 26 with Where Do We Go Now, which features a young woman who runs a café in a small Lebanese village
where the local women, both Christian and Muslim, get together to talk, swap ideas, and share grief as the number who’ve lost sons or husbands in frequent skirmishes continues to grow. The fighting between religious and political factions has been going on for years, and one day all the women decide it’s time to stop talking about the fighting and do something to bring it to a halt.
More details about the festival are available here.
We hope that you will be able to experience the film festivals near you, and also be inspired to see some great Arabic cinema on your own.
Overcoming barriers to Arab American strategic giving
Ellen Remmer, founder of The Philanthropic Initiative (a firm that advises donors, families and foundations on strategic giving), posted an recent article in Alliance magazine discussing concerns that might impede donors from practicing philanthropy. While Remmer makes many solid points, and mentions family politics, privacy concerns and the lack of donor education on the philanthropic process, she neglects to consider culturally-specific barriers that would discourage strategic giving.
During a recent event hosted by the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) and the Council of Michigan Foundations, Arab American philanthropists were asked the question, “What is the biggest obstacle to your participation in philanthropy?” While the answers varied, several themes emerged from the discussion.
9/11 and strategic giving
Largely due to the backlash that Arab and Muslim Americans have experienced since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, many potential donors are afraid to identify as Arab Americans, associate with Arab American organizations or celebrate their Arab American identity. There is a worry that if they donate to a certain organization (especially overseas), that organization may acquire undesired affiliates and thus, all donors to that organization will suffer negative consequences. In addition, some Arab Americans are reluctant to adopt new giving technology (such as text messaging donations), in fear that if their information is available online it will be used for harmful purposes. Due to these concerns and general distrust, many Arab Americans stopped giving outright after 9/11 - a trend that is slowly being reversed.
There is great power in participating in philanthropy as part of a cultural group. However, hailing from 22 states that share as many cultural, linguistic, political, and religious commonalities as differences, it can be difficult for first generation immigrants from the Arab World to adopt an Arab American identity. Even after a generation or two has passed, a tribal mentality persists as people identify themselves as Syrian American or Egyptian American, and groups are sometimes divided through events that happen in their home countries. These divisions constitute significant obstacles to a broad vision for Arab American philanthropy.
Adopting a new philanthropic mentality
For some respondents at our event, ignorance about strategic giving was the biggest obstacle. Philanthropy is a hard sell for many Arab Americans, based solely on the newness of the concept. In the Arab World, people are familiar with religious institutions and government entities, but not philanthropic institutions; foundations are a fairly new development in the Middle East. Additionally, there is a general conception that philanthropy is only practiced by the very wealthy, and less wealthy people often feel isolated from strategic giving.
CAAP helps break down barriers that prevent people from participating in philanthropy by promoting education about the power of giving among Arab American donors and leveraging individual philanthropy to create a more positive image of Arab American civic engagement in the United States. Further, philanthropy is for everyone, not only for the very wealthy, and CAAP is helping to change this misconception by engaging donors through mechanisms like giving circles and field-of-interest funds. Lastly, while many Arab Americans laid low following 9/11, for others it was an opportunity to embrace their background and promote their generous characters through charitable giving - a story that we continue to promote at CAAP.
CAAP provides a safe and culturally sensitive venue for charitable giving tailored to Arab Americans. Please contact us to let us know how we can help you meet your strategic giving goals.
Photo courtesy Valentina_A
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
2651 Saulino Ct.
Dearborn, MI 48120