Representatives of the Asian Pacific Fund visit Korean American Community Services, one of the groups to receive their funding, which provides educational, legal, health, and social services to Korean Americans. Image: Edward Caldwell, The Chronicle of Ph

Giving Circles Help Fund Asian American Charitable Causes


Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are coming together to fund important charitable causes across the AAPI community through giving circles. In a giving circle, volunteer members pool money and fundraise, and then collectively decide how to distribute that money to various groups. There are almost 50 different Asian American giving circles across the country, all of which target different causes. Combined, they have given over $2.2 million over the past six years.

Giving circles often donate to causes that lack attention. Examples include support for LGBTQ+ teens, or for Chinese parents of disabled children. Some groups even rely on the generosity of giving circles as their main source of funding. This is especially important for Asian American and Pacific Islander groups, which receive less than 1% of all mainstream foundation funding nationally.

Asian American philanthropy has also risen over the past few years among wealthy donors. Asian Americans have made large contributions to AAPI causes as well as to universities, museums, concert halls and hospitals. More Asian Americans are now working in foundations or taking seats on their governing boards. Some are even creating foundations to fill voids; for example, in 2012, the Chinese American Community Foundation became the first focused on the Chinese diaspora in the United States.

Organizations like Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy have connected community giving to many different Asian charitable traditions around the world. Because Asian Americans currently make up only 4.5% of all foundation staff, they also hope to engage more members of the AAPI community to become involved in the philanthropic field.

Meghana Nerurkar is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at American University.