AAPIP Voices

Conversation with 25 Leaders in Action: Her Family’s Commitment to Social Justice Philanthropy


by Kaohly Her

Someone once proposed to me that a structured learning space be created to teach children about philanthropy. Although I did not oppose this idea, I could not help but feel that philanthropy is something that is learned through living. Philanthropy is bigger than giving money. It is something you understand through passion and experience with people you are strongly connected with. This is why our giving circle is such a vital part of our family.

We have never shied away from talking about social justice issues with our girls.  From a young age, we instilled in our girls the idea of making an impact through giving. As a result of instilling values around giving and community our girls made decisions to have no birthday present birthday parties. They invited their friends to bring canned goods instead of gifts for donations to the local food shelf or money to donate to organizations and causes they care about. On one particular Christmas, the girls requested their aunts and uncles to make donations to the World Wildlife Fund instead of buying them gifts. 

When we formed our giving circle, it seemed like the natural progression of our giving. With this structure, our girls have a voice in helping us set our giving goals. They also help read through the grant requests and vote on issues, organizations, and initiatives that resonate with them. Even though we laid the foundation for their understanding of philanthropy early on, their learning persists. They continue to be inspired by the work happening in the community and are in constant awe of the impact our micro grants make. It is not only important to embody the spirit of giving, but also understand systems of oppression that make philanthropy necessary, and how the organizations we support help dismantle these systems.

Instilling values early on gives children the foundation to do meaningful work. They learn that they are just a small part of this amazing global community. And even if you are small or just one person, you have the power to ignite change and make a difference.

Kaohly Her is a Trainer for the Global Board of General Ministries for the United Methodist Church.  Prior to joining GBGM, she spent over 20 years holding leadership positions in both the private and public sector.

Ms. Her has a long history of working with the community in a variety of capacities. She has served as a city of St. Paul Commissioner for the department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity, an Advisory Board Member of the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood, and on the boards of Women’s Association of Hmong and Lao, Hmong National Development, Support Our Schools, Minnesota Lodging Association, and Minnesota Restaurant Association. 

Currently, Ms. Her sits on the Advisory Board of Mu Performing Arts, a co-founder of the Giving Circle Building More Philanthropy with Purpose, and teaches Sunday School at Wheelock Parkway United Methodist Church.