AAPIP Voices

President’s Message – 2018 National Network Convening & Annual Meeting


Below is the transcript of the President’s Message at the AAPIP 2018 National Network Convening & Annual Meeting, presented by AAPIP President & CEO Cora Mirikitani

In June of 2016, I had the privilege of addressing AAPIP’s national membership and giving circle network in person the first time. That was a memorable moment, because the board had just approved a five-year Strategic Plan for AAPIP, from 2017 through 2021. The Plan identified four key priorities to propel AAPIP’s work to expand and mobilize more needed resources for vulnerable AAPI communities to achieve a more just and equitable society.

The first priority in that plan was to build a larger, more inclusive and engaged network of philanthropic leaders as a way to create more agency and, ultimately, more effective action supporting AAPI communities in need.   We started by making significant amendments to our bylaws to recognize that the very face of philanthropy was changing, to include not only traditional private independent foundations, but also newer community foundations, small family foundations, social entrepreneurs and community-based AAPI giving circle participants.  Our membership has grown at a rate of more than 10% per year over the past two years, and if we continue to grow in this way, we can build a stronger collective voice on behalf of AAPI communities, while also establishing a solid financial base to support AAPIP’s core programs and activities.                                       

But building a larger membership is not, in itself, enough. We are also committed to creating high-quality, engaging programs that surface information and issues, identify solutions and best practices and create opportunities to build relationships across our national network of AAPIs in philanthropy.  This year’s Convening is a prime example of the content-rich programming we’re aiming for, and I hope you’re finding that we’re meeting the bar we’ve set, and that your time with us, and with each other, has been worthwhile.

A second priority in our Strategic Plan was to mobilize advocacy, action and resources for AAPI communities by continuing to serve as an information gatherer and advocate for AAPI issues and needs.  A key part of this strategy is to work in effective partnerships with our powerful network of members and allies, including Chapters, to not only lift up issues nationally, but to support more explicit place-based advocacy, awareness and change, whether by lifting up exemplary work here in the San Francisco Bay Area, or elsewhere.  You’ll be hearing in a moment from representatives from three of our Chapters who will be sharing some of the work they are undertaking at home that speak to the way that AAPIP’s goals nationally are animated locally, to raise awareness among funders, to collect data and information, and to build partnerships connecting community and philanthropy.

As part of our effort to think more “globally” while working locally, we have also taken on the role as the new fiscal sponsor for CHANGE Philanthropy beginning this year, a national coalition of equity-centered affinity groups Including AAPIP.  In this role we will be working with other like-minded partners to not only shine a light on our own community’s needs, but to work with intersectional partners to advance greater racial equity in philanthropy at large.

Because AAPIP has a strong track record developing “incubations” creating new and innovative programs such as the AAPIP National Giving Circle Campaign, our third priority centers around continuing to pursue new solutions and practices that advance equity and resources for AAPI communities.  Our plans to continue pushing the envelope in our giving circle work is a great example of that.

What began as a small but promising experiment to create a handful of new community-based, all volunteer giving circles has grown beyond our wildest expectations. To date, AAPIP has nurtured 54 giving circles nationally that have raised more than $3.3 million to support some 500 AAPI community organizations and causes in 18 regions across the United States. We see the next phase of incubating our giving circle work as that of a philanthropic movement builder.  That is to say, we want to make the case for new, regionally-based funders to invest in AAPIP giving circles to bring a new source of funding, as well as cultural competency, to help address their local AAPI community issues and concerns. I look forward to keeping you posted on this and other new programmatic work and partnerships as they unfold.

Last but not least, we declared in our Strategic Plan that AAPIP needed to be a strong, well managed organization with the values and infrastructure needed to support future organizational growth and have a positive external impact.  This has spurred a number of internal changes to our financial and operating systems over the past two years that and are invisible to all but a few, but I’m here to assure you that we are feeling “right-sized” and ready for the next set of organizational needs and opportunities to come.

AAPIP’s current plan is just one of a series of plans and committed advocates and leaders, that have propelled the organization over 28 years from a small group of AAPIs in philanthropy who couldn’t fill a table at a Council on Foundations conference, to a respected national affinity group of, and about, AAPIs.  Yet our fundamental understanding of the “truths” that created the need for an AAPIP then, still hold true today.

For example, we know that AAPIs communities are affected by the same systemic racial discrimination and inequity present in society at large.  And because of this, that AAPIP can play a role in advancing philanthropy that addresses the root causes of social injustice that adversely impact AAPI communities specifically, and underserved communities more broadly.

We know that the AAPI community is complex, encompassing both communities facing great adversity and communities with significant wealth, assets and access to social and economic capital.  Because of this, we believe that AAPI leaders themselves have the power and opportunity to proactively shape new and traditional philanthropy to address AAPI issues. We cannot, and will not, wait on the sidelines waiting for others to lead.

We know that lasting change is achieved by empowering those who are most impacted, and that philanthropy’s work will be more effective when it is driven by the goals and perspectives of the AAPI communities served. We also know that, as part of the solution, everyone can engage in philanthropic efforts, including individual donors across all socioeconomic levels, corporations, public agencies, and traditional grantmaking institutions.

And although the amount of philanthropic support in the U.S. is on the rise, we know that the needs of AAPI communities continue to be misunderstood and ignored due to misperception, limited quality data, and limited community engagement on the part of philanthropy. At the end of the day, we believe that philanthropy not only has a role, but also a responsibility in fostering a thriving civil society by meeting urgent needs and investing in our collective future.  

The work of AAPIP has always been the work of many. With the help of our philanthropic members, chapter constituents and many other equity-centered partners and allies in the field, we have the power to address the root cause of injustice not only for AAPIs, but for all affected communities. And AAPIP will continue to stand in that philanthropic space to ensure that the AAPI community’s voice is heard.