AAPIP Voices

AAPIP, Me, and Philanthropy: This is Personal


by Hanh Le

AAPIP’s 2016 National Network Convening and Annual Meeting opened with a plenary session entitled, “I Am Philanthropy.” Instead of one keynote speaker, AAPIP asked some of us each to share a 90-second story of why we are philanthropy – what we care about, what inspires us, and what we believe philanthropy can do to improve our world.

Like most assignments I’m given, I put off tackling this one until the last minute (i.e., on the train from DC to NY the day before the conference).  When I finally forced myself to focus on it, I was surprised to discover how easy and gratifying it was to articulate why “I am philanthropy.”

Why so easy? Responding to this question is simply responding to the question of what drives me in my life, both personally and professionally, every single day, in every single way. Even when my thoughts and actions diverge from this conviction, it has the power to pull me back on course.

Needless to say, taking the time to articulate and document explicitly what has always been implicit was incredibly powerful for me—I now have my own personal manifesto. It has also helped others better understand, relate to, and connect with me.

Essentially, though in much bigger and more complex ways, this is what AAPIP has done with its new strategic plan, which President and CEO Cora Mirikitani shared with us at the convening and that chapter co-chairs had a chance to dig into more deeply at our leadership meeting. The plan is an articulation of why AAPIP does what it does, the change it hopes to see, and how it will realize that change. It will provide guidance to its board, staff, chapters, and members, helping ensure goals are met and opportunities for innovation and collaboration are identified and pursued.

This essential mission/vision work is powerful on all levels – individually, organizationally, field-wide, and beyond. I’m thinking about how to facilitate discussions with my colleagues at the Weissberg Foundation, within our AAPIP DC Metro chapter, and among our Cherry Blossom Giving Circle to focus our work more intentionally in order to advance the impact we hope to make.

If you haven’t done it in a while, take some time to ask yourself, why you do what you do—as an individual, as a giving circle, as a foundation, whatever. Write it down, say it out loud, share and discuss it with others, and experience the amazing places the process can take you!

Hanh Le is Executive Director of the Weissberg Foundation, Co-Chair of AAPIP’s Metro DC chapter, and a member of the Cherry Blossom Giving Circle.