Arab American Giving: Diverse Voices Informing Philanthropy
A new page has turned in identity-based philanthropy. “Arab American Giving: Diverse Voices Informing Philanthropy,” an event jointly hosted on Friday, May 11 by the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) and the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF), brought together a national group of Arab American philanthropists as part of their effort to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the philanthropic sector. “Arab American Giving” represented the first time a mainstream philanthropic support institution has reached out to members of the Arab American community to obtain their unique perspectives and visions.
Together, attendees discussed the current state of Arab American philanthropy, as well as future aspirations, opportunities and challenges. CMF staff was able to hear from immigrants as well as second and third generation Arab Americans - a diverse group within itself. By the end of the event, attendees had a greater understanding of how Arab Americans can band together to collectively affect change in the philanthropy world, and how CAAP and CMF can help Arab American philanthropists reach their goals.
This event is the first in a “listening tour” series in which CMF seeks to understand how mainstream philanthropy can be more inclusive of ethnic or identity-based philanthropy. You can see photos from the event and more on our Facebook page!
Prioritizing diversity: Why ethnic funds matter
How are foundations addressing issues of diversity?
The Center for Effective Philanthropy recently conducted a massive survey of 70 funders and 10,000 grantee organizations to decipher whether foundations are discussing racial diversity among themselves and with their grantees. The results found that not many (38 percent) of foundations discussed racial diversity with their grantees, but that it didn’t seem to matter all that much to (one third of) the grantees.
A recent report from the D5 Coalition (a group of philanthropic support organizations whose aim is to grow the sector’s diversity, equity and inclusion by 2015) sheds light on the current state of philanthropic diversity:
- Foundation leaders are overwhelmingly Caucasian and do not reflect the diversity of the populations they serve.
- Few foundations have official diversity policies and practices in place.
- Data suggests that diverse populations are overwhelmingly underfunded, while identity-based funds are on the rise.
- There is a lack of standardized data collection on issues related to diversity and inclusion.
Considering these findings, the rise of identity-based foundations seems justified as ethnic foundations tend to “fill in the gaps.” Ethnic philanthropic institutions, such as the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP), fund underrepresented and overlooked communities. In the case of the Arab American population, we are especially overlooked as there is almost no formal data available in the United States on individual Arab American giving, or numbers of foundation board staff or donor-advised fund holders who are Arab American. In 2006, CAAP (then known as the Collaborative of Arab American Philanthropy) produced the first known report: Insights on Arab American Giving.
As representatives of a unique minority group, we need to to be more vocal about our needs to major foundations, and CAAP is helping to give Arab Americans that voice.
We hope that you will be generous April 17-26 during the Cultures of Giving Donor Challenge. This initiative aspires to diversify the face of philanthropy by leveraging the giving power of 22 ethnic funds around the country. All proceeds will go towards youth projects, including our Teen Grantmaking Initiative. For more information please visit our fundraising page.
Photo courtesy Kevin Dooley
Foundation event represents U-turn for youth opportunities
Concerned with issues of youth opportunity and racial equity in Michigan, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) hosted State of Opportunity? The Road Ahead for Michigan on March 27. The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) was in attendance, representing the Arab American community while the convening tackled structural racism in philanthropy and “cradle to career” grantmaking.
The Aspen Institute defines structural racism as “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time.” The March 27 gathering focused on the “dimension” of philanthropy.
State of Opportunity speakers advocated for more holistic grantmaking practices, those that from “cradle to career” (birth through adulthood) support the growth of healthy, skilled, and civically engaged youth. This includes looking at problems that face our youth (such as infant mortality, unemployment, and welfare) through a lens of racial equity. In other words, grantmakers need to take into consideration the concerns that affect minority populations, as these populations generally have higher rates of social challenges.
However, the mission of the convening was not to focus on negative rhetoric, but to discuss grant-makers’ visions for a healthy future in the state of Michigan. Attendees agreed that foundations need to put emphasis on communicating stories about the “bright spots” - the organizations, families, and individuals we positively impact through funding and partnerships. In addition, four youth grant-makers from various foundations in Michigan were in attendance, sharing stories about the impact they have in their communities through grant-making. Their positivity was contagious and they truly have the potential to be the future leaders of philanthropy.
For more resources and information about the convening, please visit the State of Opportunity website.
- State of Opportunity: The Road Ahead for Michigan – A Call to Action, Examining Access and Equity for Michigan’s Young People, Cradle to Career (Council of Michigan Foundations)
- Connecting Michigan’s Community Foundations (Philanthropy in AAction)
- Raising Money From Arab Americans (Philanthropy in AAction)
Building vibrant communities: From the inside-out
Philanthropy serves as the most complete model of community development. While a donor may be attracted to a one-time cause, a philanthropist invests in long-term impact for their community. Additionally, philanthropy comes in all sizes and forms. And philanthropy’s potential to influence communities at all levels cannot be underestimated, whether it be a major gift to an arts and culture or higher education institution, or a smaller gift that invests in the capacity of a grassroots human services organization.
Through its general grantmaking to human services organizations, such as the Arab American Community Development Corporation in Philadelphia and the Arab Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) leverages individual Arab American giving to make a collective impact on organizations working to improve the lives of thousands. In addition, the Jack G. & Bernice M. Shaheen Endowed Media Scholarship Fund was created to provide Arab American students studying journalism, film, or communications the opportunity to increase representation of Arab Americans in the media through scholarships.
Often, the most visible attractions to any community lie in public arts and culture institutions. We at CAAP, however, believe that healthy, vibrant communities begin when philanthropy invests in a variety of causes, including health, education, advocacy, and social justice initiatives. Funding a variety of sectors contributes to livable communities that attract development and sustainability.
- Philanthropic groups vital to economic health (Battle Creek Enquirer)
Photo courtesy Juergen Kurlvink
CAAP featured in a new report from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on identity-based philanthropy
A new report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, “Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Color,” documents a philanthropic shift in America toward “identity-based philanthropy.” A sector that was once exclusively elite and homogeneously white is becoming ever more democratic, diverse and rooted in community. The report chronicles the beginnings of CAAP as a leader in establishing Arab Americans as strategic philanthropists and community builders.
From 2005-2008 the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) granted funds to ACCESS as part of its Cultures of Giving program, for the purpose of establishing the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP), the only organization of its kind to engage Arab Americans in strategic philanthropy. Arab Americans have experienced a population increase of almost 40 percent since 2000, swelling to 3.5 million. Maha Freij, founder of CAAP, says that the Arab American community, which has a buying power of more than $100 billion (“Cultures of Giving, p. 5) “is an untapped donor resource, but we’re becoming more sophisticated in our approaches to it.” With the WKKF funds, ACCESS was also able to strengthen capacity-building assistance for member organizations of NNAAC, the National Network for Arab American Communities.
Manal Saab, CAAP Advisory Board member and 2010 recipient of the prestigious Russell G. Mawby Award for Philanthropy, is also featured in the report. She says, “as an immigrant, you want that American dream, you want to claim one or two stitches of the fabric that makes this society so great. But you have to make sure it’s passed on by doing your part. To hold your rightful place as an American citizen is to give back.”
The full report is available for download here. Read more about CAAP and our board member Manal Saab on pages 37 & 63.
- Raising Money from Arab Americans - Recap
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation issues new study showing demographic changes in giving
- Communities of color find more prominent role within philanthropy sector
The Center for Arab American Philanthropy Professional Advisory Board members Muna and Basem Hishmeh are great examples of Arab American philanthropists whose giving has enhanced children’s lives through the arts.
Originally from Palestine, the Hishmehs believe exposure to the arts is especially important for children. Having grown up without the art and music lessons, Muna Hishmeh said she wants to provide that for children now. Her husband shares her sentiment, highlighting how the arts can break down barriers and unite people of all backgrounds.
Last summer, the Hishmehs’ foundation brought the rich culture of Palestine to the United States with the Palestine Strings of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and the Danadeesh Dance Group of the First Ramallah Group. The young performers took to the stage in Houston, Detroit, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Wayne, NJ, delighting Palestinian Americans and non-Palestinians alike.
The above video is on CAAP’s new YouTube channel, and while you’re there be sure to watch other videos featuring CAAP supporters and initiatives.
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
2651 Saulino Ct.
Dearborn, MI 48120