AAPIP Voices

Giving Back, Giving Together: 5 Years, 50 Circles Later


by Noelle Ito

Collective decision-making while noshing on homemade dumplings to fund Chamoru cultural preservation through language, stories, legends, and art in Los Angeles. Fundraising while models strut their Hmong-inspired fashion down the runway in Milwaukee to fund programs ending abusive international marriages. Building community across ethnic, geographic, and generational boundaries while learning and sharing with each other at  AAPIP’s National Giving Circle Convening. These examples are just a tiny fragment of how AAPIP’s National Giving Circle Network has been organizing its local communities to help fill a significant gap in mainstream philanthropic funding.

Five years ago, we had the ambitious goal to launch 50 giving circles as just one way to increase funding for Asian American & Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) nonprofits across the nation. Through experimentation, donor cultivation, and building on nine years of prior experience, we are proud to say we’ve grown 50 giving circles for and by our community. Additionally, our giving circles have helped advocate for more funding and inspired community foundations and national foundations to join the movement supporting AANHPI causes.

While our primary goal was to increase financial resources for AANHPI nonprofits, we had no idea how significant the individual impact would be on the donors. We’ve had numerous giving circle participants consistently say that their involvement has been the most meaningful thing they’ve done and that being part of this network has increased their involvement and giving to charitable causes. For me, being part of and helping build this network has been the most meaningful thing that I’ve done during my time at AAPIP. 

The growth of this movement of dreamers and doers has reinforced to the field and individuals that philanthropy is no longer just an activity for the Rockefellers and Soros, but for everyday people just like you and me. We are thankful to our chapter leaders that inspired the first AANHPI giving circles, and while we are celebrating the success of our campaign, we recognize that we (individuals AND institutions) still have our work cut out for us as funding to the AANHPI community continues to trickle despite our rapidly growing population. There is more to do and we love the fact that we can all move the needle together.  

So this summer, we look forward to bringing AAPIP’s entire network together from foundation presidents to youth philanthropists, all with the interest of finding ways to build a more inclusive and just philanthropy. We hope you will join us in New York City for AAPIP’s National Network Convening and Annual Meeting on June 10, 2016, as we reflect on and celebrate the 5-Year National Giving Circle Campaign. Stay tuned for more information!

Noelle Ito is the Vice President of Programs at AAPIP.