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
Summer fun with CAAP grantees!
The Center for Arab American Philanthropy’s (CAAP) 2011 grantees have some great summer activities coming up. Check out the organizations local to you and your family for some Arab-centered fun this summer!
Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture - Philadelphia
Ibn Battuta in Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Al-Bustan Camp is an Arabic culture and language camp that takes on a different theme every year. This year their summer camp will explore the life and times of 14th century traveler Ibn Battuta and his home country of Morocco. Open to children and youth of all ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds, “Al-Bustan”, Arabic for “The Garden”, encourages dialogue, respect, understanding, and celebrates diversity.
Center for Arabic Culture (CAC) - Boston
June 25-July 6
For the first time, CAC is hosting a week-long Arabic culture, arts, and language camp for 12-14 year-olds. This camp is sure to be a hit, and will get teens expressing themselves by learning about different cultures!
Alwan for the Arts - NYC
Summer Music Classes
May 31-June 23
The riqq, or arabic hand drum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alwan regularly features a wide array of group and private music lessons. This summer, their group sessions include “Iraqi Folk & Popular Songs”, “Arab Grooves”, and “the Songs of Umm Kalthoum" (who is known to many as the greatest female Arab singer of all time!).
Alif Institute - Atlanta
Cooking Class Series
Starts June 5
Stuffed grape leaves (Photo credit: One Turkmen Kitchen)
Learn how to make stuffed grape leaves, desserts, and prepare a full Middle Eastern meal during Alif Institute’s Summer Cooking Class Series!
Arab American Heritage Council (AAHC) - Flint, Mich
2011 AAHC Summer Camp
AAHC’s third annual summer camp at Camp Copneconic will include activities such as swimming, canoeing, zip line, rock climbing, horseback riding, and cultural exchange activities focusing on the Arab world.
CAAP is proud to support programming across the U.S. from these organizations and more. To see the full list of our grantees, please visit our website!
Ethnic philanthropy extends its reach: A conversation with Maha Freij of the Center for Arab American Philanthropy
Originally written by Rick Cohen for Nonprofit Quarterly
How important are charitable or philanthropic funds established by ethnic or racial groups? Has the development of middle classes in the African American, Asian American, and Latino communities reduced the pressure on groups to generate capital to fund the needs of their own communities? Have comparatively newer ethnic or racial groups in the U.S. begun to develop their own charitable grantmaking mechanisms?
These questions were prompted by a chance coincidence, a get-to-know-you conversation with Maha Freij, the founder of the Center for Arab American Philanthropy, that turned into a two-hour exploration of the importance and implications of philanthropy identified with and controlled by emerging and longstanding ethnic and racial groups.
The Seeds of Ethnic and Racial Philanthropy
For some years, ethnic and racial activists from the Latino and African American communities were strong proponents of creating their own charitable and philanthropic funds. Such funds were not simply to serve their own communities that might be underserved by mainstream philanthropy, but also to offer grants with an ethnic or racial cast to other nonprofits. This was a big, visible movement in the 1980s and 1990s and even earlier. Efforts such as the National Black United Fund and various Asian American and Latino funds were set up to capture and distribute charitable dollars originating within those communities.
The first Black United Fund was the Brotherhood Crusade in Los Angeles, created in 1968 by Walter Bremond, then a program officer at the Cummins Engine Foundation. That led to the creation of similar funds in Philadelphia, Chicago, Oakland, Memphis, and Portland, Ore., among others, and in 1972, the National Black United Fund (NBUF) was established. The United Latino Fund (ULF) was created in 1990, also in Los Angeles, and in 1996, the Hispanic Federation created the National Latino Funds Alliance, now with eight members, though not the ULF in Los Angeles. The foundation affinity group Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) has been promoting Asian American “giving circles” as mechanisms for “increasing philanthropic capital to our communities and…moving individuals to act on their own initiative, counting 17 giving circles in the U.S. To some, these funds were at the forefront of social justice philanthropy, supporting causes that mainstream charities such as the United Way, community foundations, and local private foundations shied away from (though foundations such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation played prominent national roles in promoting ethnic philanthropy and sometimes helping capitalize the funds themselves).
At the forefront of the contemporary philanthropic movement within the Arab American community is Maha Freij’s organization, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy. The Center is actually a project of an organization called ACCESS, a 41-year-old service organization based in Dearborn, Mich. The location should be no surprise, as Dearborn is the center of the Arab American population of the U.S. Of the 1.7 million Arab Americans in the U.S., one-third live in California, New York, and Michigan. One-third of the population of Dearborn, Mich. has some Arab heritage. ACCESS developed along with the growth of the Arab American (mostly Lebanese) population of southeastern Michigan, growing from a volunteer-run storefront operation to a significant service provider with 270 staff and programs in physical and mental health, employment services, academic programs for youth, and a panoply of information, referral, immigration, and legal services.
But the story Freij describes is far from simply a growing service delivery shop. In her telling, ACCESS developed into an institution of symbolism and meaning not just for the Arab American community of southeastern Michigan, but nationwide—and that led it into an appreciation of the importance of philanthropy to ethnic communities.
For the rest of the article, please visit Nonprofit Quarterly’s website.
Mobile apps that give back
The explosion of mobile technology (including applications) in recent years has caused many nonprofits and foundations to begin considering ways to include mobile technology in their marketing and operational strategies. Most often these strategies include converting websites into a mobile-friendly format, sending text message alerts and developing mobile applications.
However, these measures can prove costly, and sometimes unnecessary. There are several applications already in existence that can engage citizens in giving back to causes of their choice, and nonprofits that are late in the mobile game can potentially benefit from several mobile application platforms.
One great example is Instead, a mobile app that inspires citizens to make philanthropic choices in their everyday lives. Encouraging people to “live below their means to give more,” Instead provides a platform for people to make less expensive (often healthier) choices - and donate the difference to charity.
For example, a couple could decide to forgo the movie theater on a Saturday night, stay in and use Redbox, and donate the difference. It’s a more sophisticated version of donating what you would spend on a cup of coffee to charity, with a high-tech facilitator. Overall, Instead aims to change the daily habits of consumers, and instigate microphilanthropy. The application is available on iTunes, and nonprofits can suggest their organization for inclusion here.
A second application, Reward Volunteers, makes it easy for nonprofits to, as the name of the app suggests, reward their volunteers. Developed by tech startup Chalo, Reward Volunteers provides a social platform where volunteers can log their volunteer hours and tasks, unlocking gifts along the way. Prizes include cash, food baskets, and even vacation packages.
While this application creates great incentives for citizens to volunteer for organizations they care about, the Reward Volunteers program is limited, only running through July 7, 2012. However, hopefully applications such as Reward Volunteers and Instead will inspire a new era of mobile technology - one that inherently seeks to give back to community organizations through innovation.
- Creative microphilanthropy (Philanthropy in AAction)
- A new app helps you buy less - and give generously (GOOD.is)
- Nonprofits need to think more about mobile (Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Photo courtesy JD Hancock
Thanks to you, we showcased our giving culture!
Thanks to you we have raised $335,000 in 10 days to educate our children and keep them healthy. Along with its parent organization ACCESS, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) was the only Arab American organization in the country competing with 21 other ethnic nonprofits in a W.K Kellogg Foundation giving challenge. And 395 of you stepped up, giving over $210,000 to make ACCESS and CAAP the winners of three special challenge days and qualifying us for $125,000 in prize money and matching funds – the most of any organization. What’s more, ACCESS and CAAP had the highest number of unique donors among all groups. To see the final leader board, please click here.
We always knew we had great friends and supporters – with this challenge we’ve been able to show our culture and pride nationally.
Most important, we’re all winners. W.K. Kellogg’s visionary challenge has raised more than $1.3 million among minority communities – money that is dedicated to youth programs. CAAP will carry on the spirit of this challenge by expanding our groundbreaking Teen Grant-making Initiative (TGI).
Launched this year in metro Detroit, TGI is a project by youth, for youth. It aims to inspire and grow a culture of philanthropy within our community. Right now, TGI consists of 20 dedicated, motivated teens in Dearborn and the metro Detroit area. With resources from the Kellogg challenge this will become a national program! Please click here to find out more about TGI.
Photo courtesy jcbonbon
Savvy? Improving nonprofit financial literacy
Transparency, fiscal responsibility, accountability: not words that sound very appealing to most. Rather than pouring over cash flow projections, or preparing prospective budgets, many nonprofit executives and staff would prefer to focus on implementing programmatic activities, and positively impacting their communities. However, financial health is crucial to the success of any nonprofit. Funding sources, in particular, look for transparency and accountability in an organization’s finances when making grant decisions.
A relatively new topic of study, nonprofit financial literacy is the subject of a recent report from the Moody’s Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Only 6.9 percent of respondents claimed financial expertise, and 17 percent self-identified as “novices” when it came to financial literacy.
There are many steps that nonprofits can take to improve their financial savvy. Only 26 percent of respondents stated that their board of directors was “very involved” in financial planning. Financial oversight from the board helps to guide fundraising efforts, and overall strategic decision-making. Keeping accurate financial records will directly affect and lead all future program activities. In addition, keeping a cash reserve and conscripting independent financial audits are good ideas, particularly in today’s volatile economy.
Enhanced financial literacy will improve the overall sustainability of your organization by increasing your chances of obtaining grants, passing due diligence inquiries, and expanding your donor base. In the end, nonprofits need to answer to their donors, through providing transparent, readily available financial statements, and through the efficacy of their programs.
Happy Financial Literacy Month!
- Nonprofit performance evaluation: Financial management (Alliance)
- Nonprofits urged to improve financial literacy (Philanthropy Journal)
- April is Financial Literacy Month (fpaforfinancialplanning.org)
Photo courtesy Edufiend.com
Teens get first-hand experience in grant review
As anyone who has been involved in any aspect of the grantmaking cycle knows, reviewing grants is a very involved process. Now, members of the Center for Arab American Philanthropy’s Teen Grantmaking Initiative (TGI) are learning about this process firsthand. Members of the group began reviewing grant applications in February after having released their first request for proposals in January. The 20 teens received training from Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) staff on the elements that make up a successful grant proposal, including the importance of the proposal having clear, measurable goals and the potential for larger impact. Running through an example proposal helped members discuss what to look for as grant reviewers.
TGI received 24 proposals from Metro Detroit youth-serving organizations. Using a scoring sheet system, they split into groups of three and reviewed five-six proposals each. Afterward, the youth came together as a large group and presented to each other their opinions of the proposals they read. Members had great discussions and even debated a little, and by the end of the meeting, they narrowed the number of proposals down to 17 they would like to further review. TGI plans to make site visits to some of the organizations and will meet again in late March before making final decisions.
TGI is a group of 20 youth working to make a lasting difference in their community through grantmaking. Keep up with the young grantmaking mavericks on our website here.
- Young grant-makers seek teens’ opinions (Philanthropy in AAction)
America is a land of immigrants, many of whom have found success and prospered in the new world. As a result, many Americans have felt compelled to give back to their home communities in the form of diaspora philanthropy. Andrew Carnegie, the father of modern strategic philanthropy, was an early pioneer of giving back to his homeland. Carnegie sent millions back to his country of origin (Scotland), which greatly impacted many sectors, including education, science, and social justice. Besides the Carnegie Corporation, many well-respected foundations were begun by immigrants, including the Skoll Foundation and the Omidyar Network.
Although diaspora philanthropy is not new, the trend is experiencing an upsurge in attention. In addition, the players and motives are changing as both charities and governments find common ground on issues such as social justice and policy change abroad - and working together to find solutions for these issues. Advances in technology make it possible for developing countries to collaborate with their diasporas across borders.
Notably, the Irish and Turkish diaspora populations have helped raise the bar for sending remittances from all around the world. Organizations such as the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) and Diaspora Matters exist to promote engagement among diaspora populations through philanthropy, entrepreneurship, policy, and innovation. In addition, CAAP staff helps Arab Americans support organizations in their home countries that hold 501©(3) status in the United States through donor-advised funds, expert advice, and technical support for transnational giving.
- Diaspora Philanthropy: Private giving and public policy
- Sustained strategic giving: the Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Ireland Funds’ Young Leaders Commit to Raising Over $1 Million for the “Promising Ireland” Campaign at Their First Global Summit in New York
Photo credit: Neal
Be mindful with your giving this season
You may have noticed your email inbox being inundated with requests for you to support causes ranging from arts installations to cancer research. This time of year, nonprofits step up their fundraising efforts in order to fully participate in the giving spirit of the season. While the majority of these are noteworthy and admirable charities, keep these wise tips in mind to help ensure that campaigns you want to support are credible.
- Is the cause appealing to your emotions with imagery of children or animals? Sometimes scams take advantage of emotional messaging.
- If you are solicited via telephone, be sure to get all of the charity’s information, including their tax ID number, in order to perform due diligence on websites like GuideStar.
- A good indicator of a charity’s efficacy and credibility is the proportion of funds that is spent on programming. Look at the organization’s annual report, or check out websites like CharityNavigator that provide free financial information on many of the country’s top charities.
- If you believe that the solicitation may be coming from a suspicious source, it may be worthwhile to contact the organization directly to ensure that they are aware of the campaign that contacted you.
- Don’t provide financial information such as credit cards or bank accounts over the phone if you’re unsure about the organization.
- The best ways to donate are by check (made payable to the charity) or by credit card (online through a secure service), as opposed to cash, which is easily misplaced or stolen.
Performing items on the checklist will help you sidestep “avoidable mistakes" that can come back to haunt you. If you have any questions about these tips, or to learn more about how CAAP can assist you in due diligence procedures, please feel free to contact us.
Image credit: Cyra R. Cancel
CAAP’S 2011 Holiday Gift Guide!
December always seems to involve a bit of a frenzied rush to prepare for holiday and year-end festivities. Often we forget to relax and enjoy the spirit of the season, which is why we at CAAP wish to highlight some of the exciting programs that our grantee partners have been developing this year. Each year, CAAP grants funds out to several dynamic Arab American arts and culture, human services, and advocacy organizations. Whether or not you are local to the happenings highlighted below, there is something for lovers of culture at all ages!
1) To ring in the season, this Thursday (December 17) the Arab Cultural and Community Center (ACCC) in San Francisco will feature Georges Lamman at their Holiday Reception and Open House. Lamman is the director of the Georges Lamman Ensemble: the highly-regarded Arab American musical group, featuring a diverse array of Middle Eastern melodies. The ACCC is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting Arab art and culture, and enriching the lives of the Arab American community through culturally focused social services, and by promoting cross-cultural events to all residents of the Bay Area and beyond.
2) Why not brush up on your Arabic classes from ALIF Insitute in Atlanta, GA? The Alif Institute fosters the understanding and appreciation of Arab culture through education, and cultural and arts programming.
3) DVDs of the films featured in the Arab Film Festival (AFF) in CA, or the Boston Palestine Film Festival (BPFF) in MA. The AFF enhances public understanding of Arab culture and provides alternative representations of Arabs by screening films from and about the Arab World that provide realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history and politics. The BPFF is now in its fifth year of showcasing the diverse and creative work of all filmmakers that explore both historic and contemporary themes related to Palestinian culture, experience, and narrative.
4) How about lessons learning the oud or tabla (Arabic lute and drum)? They’re available at the Center for Arabic Culture (CAC) in Boston! CAC promotes Arabic culture in all of its regional and historic varieties and links to other cultures in an open, democratic, and humanistic way.
5) Alwan For the Arts in NYC is featuring “Rhythms and Dances of North Africa and the Middle East" starting January 14th! Alwan organizes film festivals and screenings, book/poetry readings and signings, lectures and conferences, art exhibits, musical and theatrical performances, and language and literature classes - all to promote the diverse cultures of Arab countries.
Thank you to all our grantee organizations for another great year celebrating and spreading Arab American culture!
P.S. As a bonus, please remember to check out the store at our sister program, the Arab American National Museum, for great Middle Eastern holiday gifts!
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
2651 Saulino Ct.
Dearborn, MI 48120