WASHINGTON - Korean- American Jeong H. Kim of Maryland
has donated millions of dollars to educational institutions in the United
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.
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
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
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.