Presenters (clockwise from top left) Kelly Drummer, Noelle Ito, Nareman Taha, Bo Thao-Urabe
Members of communities of color must look to their own communities to find new models of giving that will work there.
That was the overriding message at the “Everyone’s a Philanthropist” session at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening, featuring presenters:
Each is a member of a community with a long tradition of giving coupled with growing assets – defined as skills, community knowledge and finances. Community members also have an increasing awareness of the lack of philanthropic investment in their communities and want to be part of solutions that create greater good. Here’s how they answered a few questions.
Tell us about your “cultures of giving.”
Bo Thao-Urabe: In Asian communities, your personal well-being is judged by the well-being of your family.
Noelle Ito: Don’t assume that donors from our communities are all young and financially strapped; it’s not true. For many of our donors, it’s about more than writing a check. People want to get their hands dirty and learn about issues in their communities. And, just because I’m Asian American, don’t assume I know about all Asian American issues.
Nareman Taha: It’s very much about one-on-one relationships. I recommend that people go into a community, learn about how its members look at donating and see if they can build on that tradition.
We started by doing focus groups in a number of communities and found that Arab Americans were charitable, but they gave as individuals. Many didn’t understand organized philanthropy. Now, as a community foundation, our giving is more visible. We say, “Look we’re an Arab-American organization that is supporting the community.”
Kelly Drummer: Reciprocity is very important in the Native American culture. The structure of the Tiwahe Foundation – giving from individuals to individuals – grew out of that culture.
We want to be around for a long time, so we knew we had to build our endowment. We are now asking for donations of $1,000 –and spread over five years, that’s just $17 a month.
What’s the best way to engage with new communities and populations?
Thao-Urabe: It’s about relationships. Get to know a community and how they support each other. Work with the community to determine what kind of investment it needs to build its future. Get community members to see themselves as donors. Many of them already give, but they do it without recognition.
Determine how community members can combine their traditional values with the tools of American philanthropy.
Taha: Build relationships with existing religious and social service organizations that are already working in the community. Associating your work with theirs can increase your credibility.
Drummer: It’s about getting people to realize that giving in small amounts matters. You don’t need to have a lot of money to give. I say, “If you think you can’t give $120, how about if you give $10 each month for a year?”
How do your organizations work with foundations?
Ito: Foundations serve as fiscal agents for our giving circles, so they process our checks. Many of our giving circles also have a 50 percent foundation match.
Taha: W.K. Kellogg Foundation and others have lent us their expertise, their research and their support. They have been extremely helpful.
Drummer: The Minneapolis Foundation has provided a home for our endowment. We partner with Blandin Foundation and Bush Foundation on leadership development programs.
– Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate