Last weekend, participants from 13 Asian American giving circles, some traveling cross-country and arriving on little sleep, converged into a cramped, warm meeting space to sit for one and a half days. Doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for good community, does it? But nurtured with good food, plentiful snacks, and the instant bond of AAPIP’s support, participants brought energy and passion to building a community of learning, supporting and growing giving circles.
Giving circles came in various shapes and sizes. Some had been established for a long time and had leadership well in place, while others were still in the “birth canal”, waiting to be born. Some were focused on giving back to a particular group, while others were more general in the AAPI community. There was small and large circles, both in terms of people and dollars. The community coalesced together in fun, laughter, and the sheer joy of learning from one another and encouraging one another. That sounds a lot like the giving circles we aspire to create!
The gathering brought to reality something that had been on paper just five years ago, when I first started researching Asian American giving circles for AAPIP as an associate. Part of the summer was spent exploring the idea of not only starting a giving circle focused on Asian American communities, but the role for AAPIP to lead this movement. Little did I know then that in 2010 AAPIP is squarely in the center of leading and growing giving circles for AAPI communities to benefit. Four years ago, there were only four Asian American giving circles. Today there are 13, and more are emerging. With AAPIP’s continued leadership and support, the Asian American giving circle movement has potential to dramatically shift the viewpoint of philanthropy as only the domain of the wealthy and elite, to be something that anyone is capable of, and more importantly, capable of making a real impact, together. Social change takes time, we were reminded, and building this movement is important because it will ultimately make a difference in the communities we care about.
I believe that a few years from now we will look back on this weekend and say what a watershed moment this was in the history of the Asian American giving circle movement. AAPIP has done a great service to AAPI communities across the country by developing giving circle leaders and energizing giving circles to make an impact on both meeting community needs, and growing philanthropists one person at a time. As one participant put it, giving circles are “redefining the paradigm of giving”. One person at a time, one circle at a time, changing one community at a time. On behalf of all the participants, thanks, AAPIP, for the leadership and opportunity!