AAPIP recently interviewed Lina Park, Executive Director of Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco (KACF-SF). KACF-SF is an AAPIP Institutional Member located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- What is the Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco?
Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco (KACF-SF) is a grantmaking organization dedicated to building a vibrant, healthy and empowered Korean American community in the Bay Area. We exist to cultivate philanthropy and volunteerism; support nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable and underserved Korean Americans; promote networking and collaboration; and raise awareness of priority and emerging needs in our community.
- KACF-SF was founded only a few years ago but has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. What are you most proud of?
As a new Executive Director of KACF-SF, I can’t take the credit for the past few years of work, but since taking on this role in January, I’m very proud of the collective heart, diligence and action of our community. As a young organization, raising more than $500,000 to serve the needs of our community during our annual gala consecutively for the past three years is not the result of a few individuals – it comes from the work of a whole village. Since its inception, KACF-SF has funded over 12 organizations with more than $840,000. From the founding members to board & associate board members to volunteers, there is an intentionality and focus to rise together.
What was a key challenge?
We have been presented with what I consider both a challenge and opportunity. The Bay Area is vast and our Korean American communities are geographically spread out. Due to this geographic distance, it can be challenging to bring together and mobilize Korean Americans, yet there is also a desire to connect and mobilize in an effort to contribute toward making an impact in our community. We also have a challenge and opportunity to not only promote philanthropy, but also educate and instill the act of giving in our Korean American culture. Culturally, giving has been closely associated with giving back to family. Yet, as more and more Korean Americans are becoming aware of the broader issues in our community, including poverty, domestic violence and mental health, people are stepping up to collectively improves lives of our seniors, our youth and our community.
What are you learning through your work that either surprised or reinforced your understanding about the Korean American community–its needs, opportunities, etc?
Growing up, I personally knew of many of the issues that we are presently working to solve. Since we don’t talk openly about these struggles in our community, I didn’t realize how prevalent these issues actually are in our community. Korean Americans have one of the highest rates of death by suicide amongst Asian Americans and Korean American seniors have one of the highest rates of poverty amongst Asian American Pacific Islanders in the Bay Area. What I’ve come to realize is how strongly our community is bound by the stigma associated with any form of struggle or need whether it’s mental health or financial. This reveals why it’s so important to work closely with our grantee partners who are on the frontlines addressing many of the issues in our community.
What are the most valuable ways that AAPI funders like KACF-SF can support and advocate for their communities?
As a funder, I believe it is our obligation and responsibility to build partnerships with our community and nonprofit organizations. From the onset, KACF-SF has made the commitment to do more than award grants. We want to go further to understand our grantee partners’ needs and issues, and provide assistance however we can in order to ensure their success – whether that means making connections in our community or providing a platform to collaborate. Most recently, we held our first Korean American community conference and solve-a-thon where we brought together community-minded professionals and community leaders to learn about local needs and organizations. The conference was followed by a solve-a-thon where teams had two weeks to develop solutions that could address specific needs in the areas of senior care, mental health or advocacy. The winning team’s solution will be implemented in the community in partnership with KACF-SF’s grantee partners.
This year, we’re also holding a mental health initiative where our grantee partners (community clinics and community based organizations addressing mental health amongst Korean Americans) will be able to come together to collaborate, share and learn from one another. By providing this platform, we want to connect and bridge efforts so that our partners can be further equipped and supported.
We are also very fortunate to learn from the more established KACF in New York as we navigate our growth in the Bay Area. We are learning how to assess and fund through a culturally competent lens in our effort to build a vibrant, healthy and empowered Korean American community in the Bay Area.
What’s next for KACF-SF?
As we grow, we continue to find areas to address in our community. This year, we will be partnering with Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in San Francisco to hold a convening for Korean speaking organizations and associations. In addition, we will be launching a giving program that promotes “connection and philanthropy for professionals on the rise.” Our leadership is dedicated to raising the next generation of leaders and philanthropists through connecting like-minded individuals and groups, and bridging our mission and vision to support the needs of the most vulnerable in the Bay Area.