President's Address - Elevating AAPI Philanthropy

Below is the transcript of the president's message at the 2017 National Network Convening and Annual Meeting. 

In May 2015, AAPIP celebrated its 25th anniversary year and I was privileged to be introduced as its new president and CEO.  In the year that followed, the board and staff worked tirelessly on the development of a 5-year Strategic Plan that took stock of the changing needs of AAPI communities across the country, the changing landscape of philanthropy, and the strengths and legacy of AAPIP’s work.

Our planning was grounded in the proposition that Asian American and Pacific Islander philanthropic and community leaders had the power to influence philanthropic investment, philanthropic practice and philanthropic knowledge to strengthen our community. And by doing so, AAPIP’s mission – to expand and mobilize more resources for AAPI communities to build a more just and equitable society – could be fulfilled.

Over the last 27 years, AAPIP’s membership has grown from a few people trying to fill a table at the Council on Foundations conference to one of the largest identity-based affinity groups in philanthropy.

This growth occurred during a time when AAPIs were also the fastest growing racial group in the nation with a 46% growth rate between 2000 and 2010.  Many AAPIs struggle with issues of poverty, educational attainment, immigration status, language access and various forms of discrimination. Yet the truth is, that philanthropy hasn’t kept pace with this demographic change. In fact, AAPIP’s research has shown that foundation funding to our community amounts to no more than half of one-percent of all foundation grantmaking.  

At the same time, the AAPI community includes many individuals with significant wealth, assets and access to social and economic capital.  Rather than waiting on the sidelines for others to step in, we have the leadership, the knowledge and the resources in our own community – right now – to shape new and traditional philanthropy to address the root causes of social injustice affecting the most vulnerable among us.

So with these needs and assets in mind, following the formal approval of the Plan in June 2016, we rolled up our collective sleeves to begin the work of implementing some important new directions.

We started by first redesigning a new membership program to include not only our traditional foundation members but also vibrant, new philanthropies – and philanthropists – working in small family foundations, as individual community donors and as philanthropy-serving professionals.  I’m pleased to say that our Institutional Membership has grown by nearly 20% in this past year alone, and we will continue to reach out to new AAPI funders, and funding allies to build on this effort next year and beyond.

While growing our membership, we also focused on creating more meaningful convening and engagement opportunities for members, including the conference you are attending today.  As you know, the theme of this year’s conference is “Elevating AAPI Philanthropy – Leaders, Knowledge, Impact” and there couldn’t be a more literal way of describing our aspiration to build a powerful network of change agents advancing AAPIs in philanthropy and AAPI communities – especially in the current political environment driven so much by racial intolerance and divisiveness.

And given this new environment, being active as a public advocate for racial equity and social justice was also a priority for AAPIP last year.  We continued to deepen our work as part of CHANGE Philanthropy, a national coalition of identity-based affinity groups working to integrate diversity, inclusion, and social justice into philanthropic practice, and transform the sector’s culture to be one that embraces equity.

In that coalition, we have worked closely with the Association of Black Foundation Executives (or ABFE), Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Native Americans in Philanthropy and the Women’s Funding Network.  Our collaborating partners have also included the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the Neighborhood Funders Group and the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity.  I think each of the partners understands the importance of their own, focused work, but we’ve also come to agree that we can be “better together.”

Philanthropic movement-building is never easy, especially around issues of equity and inclusion.  But it’s a topic that is so timely, and so important, that I hope you’ll consider joining philanthropic colleagues from around the country at the CHANGE Unity Summit, a national conference to advance the equity movement, that will be held in New Orleans on September 18 through 20 this year.

So AAPIP has made great strides in the past year, but we also know that there’s much more to be done.  In the year ahead, we will be building on the cornerstones of our membership growth and engagement work by focusing more specifically on work in, and with, our Chapter network.

Chapters have been a unique part of AAPIP’s foundational structure, allowing our national advocacy work to be informed by real people and real events on the ground.  Chapters have also helped to advance AAPI philanthropic and community leaders, and we not only want to continue that purpose, but to strengthen its reach and impact.

We will also re-focus our efforts to conduct new research about AAPI communities, as well as the potential for AAPI philanthropy, and philanthropists, to lead the charge in addressing their needs.

I’m excited about the work ahead, and in lifting up the “leaders, knowledge and impact” in this room, and elsewhere, that will make a difference for our community.  Together, we can Elevate AAPI Philanthropy to produce a more informed, inclusive and effective philanthropy that supports the full participation of all AAPI communities in the civic, economic and political life of our country.  I hope you’ll continue that journey with us.

Thank you very much.