AAPIP Voices

My First Annual Membership Meeting


Christen Lee is Western Regional Coordinator for Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and Advisor with Kordant Philanthropy Advisors. She is co-chair of AAPIP’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

I joined AAPIP last year as part of my transition into philanthropy because I wanted to connect with smart, committed, and fun people in this field. I became co-chair of the AAPIP-SF chapter this year. Before philanthropy, my background was in capacity building and legal services for nonprofits and social enterprise. Currently, I coordinate the west coast chapters of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and also work with Kordant Philanthropy Advisors, researching current trends and issues in the API philanthropy and nonprofit sectors. I’m also on the board of Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA), which empowers immigrant women and youth to develop the skills and confidence to lead and advocate in their communities.

Key highlights from the membership meeting

AAPIP-ers often describe this community as a family, and I definitely felt that way at my first membership meeting. Whether catching up with old friends or connecting with new people from other chapters, every interaction was rooted in a sincere interest in each other’s lives and careers.

Other highlights: the performances! AAPIP did an incredible job of lining up some of the best API artists in the country. I loved the spoken word poetry of Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai and mini-Broadway revue by Christine Toy Johnson and Raymond J. Lee.

Also, the New York chapter did a great job of organizing the Dine About Town events. I went to the Korean dinner, which was a veritable cornucopia of the best of Korean cuisine. BBQ kalbi ribs, ddeokboki (spicy rice cakes), and japchae (stir-fried sweet potato noodles). It was awesome! I think my clothes still smell like kalbi. Thank Kyung Yoon!

Finally, I was blown away by the speakers. Kiran Ahuja and Colin Greer shared about their personal stories and how they got into this work. I loved Kiran’s story about graduating from a historically black college. I was also deeply moved by Colin Greer’s story about how his experiences growing up in England informed his awareness of class, opportunity, and access. Colin Greer also shared some wonderfully keen and thought-provoking insights about the nature and practice of philanthropy.  For example, he said that money doesn’t automatically give one the right to be a leader in social change movements, and that program officers have to remember that it’s not “their” money. 

What are you bringing back to your chapter?

New relationships with other chapters, new opportunities to collaborate and share with other chapters. For example, it turns out that this month, the Seattle/Puget Sound Chapter is screening AIWA’s documentary about women’s grassroots leadership development. SF is planning to host a screening of that same documentary later this summer. The Seattle/Puget Sound Chapter generously shared their publicity materials with us, which we plan to adapt for the San Francisco screening. San Francisco and Silicon Valley also plan to collaborate more on joint programming and to help publicize each other’s events.

I’ve been an AAPIP member for only a year, but my membership has opened countless doors to awesome relationships, as well as concrete opportunities for personal enrichment and professional development. I encourage anyone who has an interest in philanthropy or API community involvement to join!