Engaging minorities through social justice philanthropy
In preparation for World Day of Social Justice on Feb. 20, CAAP suggests you read a new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), titled “Real Results: Why Strategic Philanthropy is Social Justice Philanthropy.” The report argues that strategic and impactful philanthropy must look at prioritizing and engaging underserved communities because “by and large, philanthropists do not invest at significant levels with the explicit intention of benefitting underserved and marginalized communities.” How can foundations and individuals make their giving more strategic? The authors of NCRP’s report – Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski – challenge grantmakers and philanthropists to take a social justice approach through doing the following:
- Make your philanthropy truly impactful by combing strategic giving* with social justice**. In other words, have clear goals and measurable impact for your giving, while also prioritizing and empowering underserved communities and focusing on social and systematic change.
- Create structural change by funding advocacy, community organizing, civic engagement and other related activities.
- Increase grant dollars benefitting marginalized communities, especially in the areas of arts and culture, environment, education, and health. For example, the report points out that regardless of socioeconomic status, students with exposure to the arts are more likely to graduate high school and attend college.
- Mobilize grassroots organizations that work with and on behalf of underserved groups.
- Provide the type of support that organizations need. For example, many organizations report a strong need for general operating and multi-year funding, but grantmakers for the most part prefer to fund project support.
- Continue to evaluate the impact of your philanthropy. Solicit feedback from your grantees to learn how you’re making a difference and how you can improve.
The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) can help you be more strategic with your giving to Arab Americans and other minority communities. Contact us to learn more, and also view our 2013 Request for Proposals to learn about our current general operating support grant opportunity for Arab American organizations focusing on social justice issues. Follow along with us Feb. 20 on Twitter for #SocialJusticeDay.
*Strategic philanthropy means to have clearly defined goals and strategies to achieve those goals, as well as looking at who benefits from your philanthropy and how.
** Foundation Center’s definition of social justice philanthropy is “the granting of philanthropic contributions to nonprofit organizations based in the United States and other countries that work for structural change in order to increase the opportunity of those who are the least well off politically, economically and socially.” What distinguishes this field of philanthropy from others is that it addresses the core causes of injustices, rather than symptoms.
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
Sustained Strategic Giving
The Carnegie Corporation of New York is currently celebrating a “Century of Philanthropy.” Read more about Andrew Carnegie, the man who inspired a century of strategic philanthropy, at the American Libraries Magazine or watch the Carnegie Corporation’s video on Vimeo.
Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie pioneered the ideas of strategic philanthropy and grantmaking as an investment for the long term growth of communities. Today, CAAP applies these same principles to empower the Arab American community. In addition, the Carnegie Corporation invests in immigrant rights and has been an important partner to our friends at the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) since 2004.
To learn more about how CAAP can assist with your planned giving, contact us.
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
2651 Saulino Ct.
Dearborn, MI 48120