Is diversity bad for fund-raising? – Conversations in Philanthropy #5

Is diversity bad for fund-raising? Conventional wisdom says so. This is because of the difficulty in getting diverse group of people to agree on what is a “common good” and also the high transaction costs involved, in terms of time spent due to language and cultural barriers[i]. Anft quotes federal income tax data to point out that Hispanics and Blacks give more of their proportion of wealth, as compared to the general population (qtd. In Achieving Excellence in Fundraising 185).

IMG_2157 fundraising_21

Growing trends in fund-raising : Arab Americans and South Asian Americans

Given my research focus and experience with Arab-Americans and American Muslims, I will talk a bit about these two groups. A few things stand out in regards to these two groups

  1. Informality and emotion – Much of giving and philanthropy by Arab Americans and South Asian Americans can be considered informal and driven largely by emotions. This was shared by Maha Freij, the Deputy Executive Director of ACCESS, the largest Arab American NGO in the U.S in a recent conversation with her. While the younger generation may be become more organized about their giving practices, certainly the emotional appeal of a relative or friend in need gets a faster response than an appeal from an organization.
  2. Giving to civil society institutions is low[ii] – Given that many countries in the MENA and South Asia are not democracies (or where they are, civil society does not fully function as it does in other countries), the trust that people have in these institutions is rather low. Hence, Arab Americans and South Asian Americans tend to give lesser amounts of money to civil society institutions such as non-profits, think-tanks etc.
  3. Individual giving, rather than to institutions – Related to the point above, this is again a generalization, but something that holds true in almost all cases. There is greater recognition of individual needs rather than those of institutions. One can even argue that institution building is somewhat new phenomenon and one that is not fully appreciated by many people. This is not to generalize among all Arab Americans or South Asians but a trend that stands up to scrutiny, if one were to do some research.


What should fund-raisers do?

Approach each one distinctively, knowing their cultural norms and being mindful of what is acceptable behavior, in terms of asking behavior.  Recognizing that most ethnic giving is informal is important, and a few factors such as increased wealth, growing recognition of social needs and those of individuals in particular is growing. There is also much emotional giving in this space, in contrast to planned giving, which is done with the expectation of tax-benefits etc.

While most traditional fundraising principles still hold true, it may help to have people in the fundraising team who are sensitive to these issues and make appropriate strategic choices. There is also a need to craft a needs assessment that clarifies the organization’s perspectives on diversity.


[i]  Osili Una. Achieving Excellence in Fundraising. Josey Bass. 2011. Print.


[ii] This is based on my own research, anecdotal evidence and also some literature I have read in this space.

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MENASA was incorporated in October 2011 and has successfully executed a number of events that have connected emerging leaders in the US with those in Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (ME, NA, SA). We are thrilled with our early successes, but are eager to expand programming and host even more events.

To fuel this expansion, we need to invest in technological infrastructure, work with partners outside the DC area and pay for non-profit registration expenses. We are currently dependent on partner organizations for technological support and your donation can help us host events independently, allowing us to connect even more emerging leaders with those in the ME, NA, and SA. Moreover, we need to pay for IRS filing fees to pursue grants and corporate funding. Your support will not only help a fledging non-profit develop a solid financial foundation, but also help us make the world a better place.

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The changing geo-political and demographic landscape across the ME, NA, and SA demands a new paradigm of engagement. Reports from the World Bank, Brookings Institute, and other organizations have cited the need to address emerging demographic challenges, as close to 50% of population in ME and NA are under age 25 and will enter the workforce. The situation in SA is similar, with the opportunity-skill gap not being addressed in an adequate manner.

These shifting landscapes require a better understanding between the countries of the ME, NA, and SA as well as rest of the world.

Additionally, the relationship between the US and the ME, NA, and SA is experiencing a seismic shift. We believe that at this critical juncture, there needs to be greater person-to-person dialogue, along with opportunities for youth to engage and work with each other on projects which break the barriers of distance and nationality. We nurture leaders who are aware of their global civic responsibilities, and help them engage with the world around them and make an impact in a meaningful way.

Although the Internet and new media accelerate global information flow, visible barriers still remain. In many places, economic and governmental obstacles prevent the free flow of knowledge and opportunities.

Through our programs, MENASA diminishes these obstacles by creating a network of emerging leaders who want to spur change in their societies and serve as ambassadors to the rest of the world by sharing knowledge, networks, and experiences. MENASA will facilitate a closer collaboration between emerging leaders in the ME, NA, and SA and the US, in turn fostering a two-way dialogue and better understanding.

Our Vision:

Our ultimate goal is to develop closer collaboration between individuals in the ME, NA, SA and the US, leading to a more nuanced understanding between the ME, NA, and SA and the US, bridging the knowledge gap and increasing opportunities for youth and civil society organizations. We aim to facilitate East-West dialogue through projects and exchange programs involving young and emerging leaders.

Our Mission:

MENASA strives to inspire and empower emerging US leaders by connecting them with their counterparts in the ME, NA, and SA through collaborative projects and educational exercises.

We aim to reduce the knowledge and opportunity gap between the US and the MENASA region through our initiatives by leveraging technology platforms to create personal experiences and professional development opportunities.

Our Programs:

Global Visioning Summits: Online conferences between emerging leaders in ME, NA, and SA and those in US.

Global Visioning Challenge: Online collaboration between US students and NGOs in the ME, NA, and SA to identify and solve a problem facing the NGO.

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