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Minorities as major philanthropists

WASHINGTON - Korean- American Jeong H. Kim of Maryland

has donated millions of dollars to educational institutions in the United

States.

Alexine and Aaron Jackson, who are African-American, give tens of thousands

of dollars yearly to arts groups, health organizations and women's causes in

the D.C. area. Cuban-American John Fitzgerald directs his largess to ethnic

theater troupes in this area.

All four are part of the "new face of philanthropy" - African-Americans,

Latinos, Asian- Americans, Native Americans and others who are thrusting

themselves into mainstream philanthropy, which has for the last century largely

been considered the purview of affluent Caucasians.

Increasing wealth among ethnic groups and predictions that minorities will

make up close to 50 percent of the U.S. population by the middle of the

century, have forced the philanthropic world to take notice. Especially when

you consider that the nation's nonprofits - hospitals, schools, social service

organizations and so on - are searching desperately for ways to replace

declining government funding.

As minority communities grow in size and affluence in the United States,

their philanthropy is also swelling.Examples:

African-American publishing magnate John H. Johnson donated $4 million to

Howard University's School of Communications in 2003.

Hispanic technology investor Alberto Vilar has given tens of millions of

dollars to arts organizations (though business setbacks forced him to scale

back some promised donations).

Kim contributed $5 million to the University of Maryland's A. James Clark

School of Engineering in 1999, which is constructing the Jeong H. Kim

Engineering Building, its first facility named after an Asian.

In the past three years, Baltimore African-American money manager Eddie E.

Brown and his family have donated $6 million to the Maryland Institute College

of Art, $1 million to the Enoch Pratt Free Library and $5 million to help

African- American children in poor Baltimore neighborhoods.

In 1999, Charles Wang, founder and former head of Computer Associates, and

Brian Mullaney, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive, founded Smile

Train, which has paid for cleft-lip and palate surgery for more than 100,000

children in developing countries. In 2002, Wang also donated to Stony Brook

University the Charles B. Wang Center, an Asian-inspired cultural center worth

more than $40 million.

Of course, members of racial and ethnic groups have a history of

philanthropy in their communities but not in ways that always fit neatly into

traditional U.S. models of philanthropy.

Asian-Americans and, in particular, Hispanics send billions of dollars back

to their home countries to help relatives and to help build housing, schools,

churches and hospitals.

African-Americans have always given generously to their churches and

civil-rights organizations. Black fraternities and sororities raise money for

scholarships and other community services. There are deep traditions of

informal philanthropy to help out needy family and friends.

But, say researchers, many are still relative newcomers to organized

philanthropy, the custom of giving money to nonprofits in exchange for tax

deductions and recognition beyond the immediate community.

An untapped resource

"You have strong traditions of giving in diverse communities that have

never really been brought into the mainstream of organized philanthropy," said

Henry A.J. Ramos, a principal in Mauer Kunst Consulting, a New York company

that advises nonprofit groups on ethnic giving.

Until recently, say the experts, many "mainstream" charitable organizations

haven't made much of an effort to raise funds from ethnically and racially

diverse populations.

One reason, said Diana Newman, author of "Opening Doors," a book for

nonprofits on how to attract money from more-diverse donors, is the

misperception that such people - except for some Asians - are more likely to be

recipients of charity than participants in philanthropy. Not true, she says.

"That old theory - if it were ever true - is not true today," Newman said.

Recently, several groups have launched initiatives to increase philanthropy

among various racial and ethnic communities. In New York City, the 3-year-old

Coalition for New Philanthropy is trying to get African-Americans, Latinos and

Asian-Americans to open their wallets wider.

"There is an increase in the number of individuals of color who have

attained some education and financial success, and they're saying, 'I don't

have the ways of giving back that my parents did,' " says Erica Hunt, co- chair

of the coalition and executive director of the 21st Century Foundation, an

African-American philanthropic fund.

The coalition has held hundreds of seminars on philanthropic options at

meetings of professional associations, social clubs, language schools,

volunteer associations and alumni groups in various communities.

But nonprofits chasing after dollars from communities of color face some

obstacles.

Some potential donors may be suspicious of white-controlled institutions -

even do-gooder groups, according to a Council on Foundations report. And recent

immigrants may lack experience with a nonprofit sector or with charitable

giving in their home country, researchers say.

Starting at home

Additionally, many minorities may be focused on helping more-needy family

members. Eddie C. Brown said he first made sure his extended family was taken

care of before he expanded his philanthropy. But, he says, he feels a

responsibility to the black community as a whole.

"There is just so much need in the African-American community," Brown said.

"We need as a people to help address those needs." Some minority

philanthropists say they prefer to direct their aid toward their home countries

because they believe the need is so much greater.

Malou Babilonia, 39, a Filipino-American who lives in San Francisco, set up

a small foundation that focuses on environmental and poverty issues in the

Philippines. So far, Babilonia - who made her money as a high-tech executive

during the Internet boom - has poured $1.4 million into the effort. "It's a

lifetime commitment," she said.

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