Where There Is A Need, Giving Circles May Be The Answer
by Belinda Dronkers-Laureta on May 11th, 2016

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

January 18, 2013

Where There Is A Need, Giving Circles May Be The Answer


This Sunday, in a formal ceremony, API Family Pride will be awarded a grant to help pay for a film project. The grant is awarded by the Red Envelope Giving Circle. We are grateful for the grant and proud that they believe in what we are doing enough to trust us with their gift. But we wondered what is a “giving circle?” We began looking things up and the story that emerged makes us proud to be part of the LGBT API community.

A giving circle is a group of people who use charity and creativity pooling funds to make grants. They are sometimes called “social investment clubs.” Giving circles are organized around a common interest and are an effective way to seed fund organizations to effect change. That is the general definition, but how did they start and why?

First this.

LGBT APIs are invisible. There are no blips on the government’s social services radar identifying them. LGBT APIs are hidden among the other, larger or better-known groups. For example, research surveys focused of APIs typically do not ask about sexual orientation and gender identity. Research surveys focused on LGBTs focus on the general LGBT populations and if people of color are tracked at all, it is usually black and hispanic populations.

API LGBTs’ invisibility also means that the large philanthropic foundations are not seeing them either. On this, the statistics are abundantly clear. In 2009, LGBT groups received 0.2% of all foundation giving in the U.S. Of that small amount, 10% went to LGBT communities of color and of that 0.7% went to API organizations. Not much, is it? In fact, the total amount comes to about $650 thousand.

Not being seen does not mean not having problems. All the problems that beset other marginalized groups also pertain to API LGBTs, plus problems that usually do not pertain to other groups, immigration, for example. Not being seen does mean being isolated and combined those two characteristics mean that the social problems facing API LGBTs do not elicit effective responses.

There is a beacon of light. API LGBTs see themselves and they see their own needs. If nobody comes to help, they will help themselves. In the late 1970s, the first API LGBT groups began to form in America’s large urban centers. At first they were co-gender and multi-cultural, but soon they evolved into separate L and G and T and culture specific groups. This is why we are so proud to be part of this movement: where there is a need, a support group will form to respond to that need. API Family Pride is a response and the community we support validates our response with their generosity.

Most of the local support groups are small and all-volunteer and narrowly focused. Good for local needs, but inefficient for building a larger movement for social change. Effecting social change requires leadership, infrastructure, and capacity for civic engagement and all that requires funding. This is where the giving circles come in. They are part of the community, they raise seed money from that community to fund what we call “leveraging” strategies: linking to allies, linking to mainstream LGBT organizations, linking to faith based organizations, in short, making API LGBTs visible. The goal is to coalesce small API LGBT support groups into a broader movement for real social change. It is magical.

NOTE: The data for this blog comes from an Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy report entitled: Missed Opportunities: How Organized Philanthropy Can Help Meet the Needs of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander Communities. The report is no longer available on their website.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org


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