Part of a Philanthropy A-Z series
Giving within ethnic communities is not a new phenomenon, and formal identity-based philanthropy began in 1895 when German Jews in Boston formed a fundraising federation to help new Jewish immigrants adjust to life in the U.S. What began as a local initiative in Massachusetts has expanded across the nation, and includes formal giving vehicles for many ethnic and minority communities, including Hispanics, Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and most recently, Arab Americans. The Center for Arab American Philanthropy operates on a community foundation model to promote strategic identity-based giving in the Arab American community, and is the only institution of its kind.
The mission of identity-based philanthropy is for minority communities, many of which are marginalized and under-served in the traditional philanthropy model, to band together to form giving structures that address critical issues in their communities. These communities are defined by ethnic or racial origin, gender, and sexual orientation. According to the W.K. Kellogg foundation,
identity-based funds are the primary vehicle through which this philanthropy gets expressed. Identity-based funds work by pooling together solicited donations and contributions from community donors and then redistributing those funds (through grants) to individuals or organizations doing work in that community to promote social change.
- CAAP featured in a new report from W.K. Kellogg on identity-based philanthropy (Philanthropy in AAction)
- The D5 Coalition: Building diversity, equity and inclusion (Philanthropy in AAction)
Image courtesy fotologic
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.
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
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
2651 Saulino Ct.
Dearborn, MI 48120