Philanthropy as Small as a Box of Pens—And as Big as Asia

Asian Giving Circle event honors 6 grant recipients—and a surprise challenge inspires 13 new members Tweet This

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Homework help and tutoring in Chinatown. Health services for Laotian refugees in Elgin. Research-based public policy initiatives to benefit South Asian Americans. These valuable services are enriching our region’s diverse Asian communities, thanks to the Asian Giving Circle.

At a grant reception on June 25, AGC celebrated the power of communal giving by awarding $40,000 to six nonprofit organizations selected by its volunteer membership.

“To help young people, to help seniors, helping small organizations plan for their future sustainability—it’s something that is very powerful and very meaningful,” reflected chair Jae Jin Pak.

i2i’s Leakhena Yoeun talks with SAAPRI incoming executive director Reema Kapur

This year’s grant cycle focused on capacity building, to sustain and strengthen nonprofits with budgets under $500,000. Grant making committee members Edwin Chandrasekar, Rooshey Hasnain and chair Serena Moy recognized the 2015 recipients:

  • Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE). With their grant, AFIRE will create a three-year strategic plan and provide training for board, staff and volunteers.
  • Center for Immigrant Resources and Community Arts (CIRCA Pintig). A community arts organization celebrating the immigrant experience in America, CIRCA Pintig’s grant will support board development, with emphasis on fundraising and strong governance.
  • Japanese American Citizens League. The civil and human rights organization’s Kansha Project will engage college-aged young adults to develop a youth board and build future leadership.
  • Lao American Organization of Elgin. This grant will support a marketing and branding campaign, to increase fundraising as well as outreach and awareness among Laotian immigrants and refugees.
  • Project Vision. Dedicated to providing youth in Chinatown and Bridgeport with tools for educational and personal development, Project Vision will use their grant to build a development staff and internship program, and provide fundraising training for board and advisory board members.
  • South Asian American Policy & Research Institute. With this grant, SAAPRI will create a strategic plan, invest in board development and improve its website to better communicate its valuable research and policy initiatives.

The highlight of the evening was a surprise gesture of generosity by one Asian Giving Circle member. Reflecting on her late parents’ profound commitment to supporting their community, this donor issued a challenge to the assembled guests: a matching pledge of $1,000 if ten new members would step forward. Within seconds, 13 guests were on their feet to accept the challenge and become part of the giving circle.

Such spontaneous moments of generosity are integral to AGC gatherings. At last year’s reception, a Flash Giving challenge invited attendees to make a contribution, then vote on one outstanding nonprofit to be awarded the funding pool on the spot.

The whirlwind of giving raised over $8,000, and selected as their recipient invisible 2 invincible (i2i), a community-based organization that supports and affirms LGBTQQ members of the Chicago’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

But without hesitation, i2i chose to share the award, dividing it equally among all the nonprofits on the ballot.

Speaking at this year’s reception, i2i’s Leakhena ‘Lyk’ Yoeun explained that generous decision: “We all need money—and it’s good to share.”

i2i used their share of the funding to host community events, like a recent writing workshop, as well as to enable community members to attend the upcoming NQAPIA 2015 Conference in Chicago.

Buying pens and notebooks, so that a writing workshop becomes possible: a potent reminder of how even minor expenses can limit the reach of small, grassroots nonprofits—and how small, personal charitable donations make an enormous impact.

Guests in animated conversation

As Jae Jin Pak explained, “The Asian Giving Circle and organizations like ours are so important because we serve our community. We work together to keep organizations who serve our community’s members going.”