1.30.2007

Asian Philanthropy

Interesting article in the Grey Lady about the increasing
philanthropic split between upper and lower class Chinese. In
Manhattan, rich Chinese uptown are penetrating into the elite crowd
when it comes to writing big checks and attending chi-chi benefits;
meanwhile, agencies that serve poor Chinese downtown are getting most
of their donations from other poor or formerly poor downtown Chinese.
(Btw, here's a link to the article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/20/nyregion/20philanthropy.html.)

We don't have as stark a divide here in Philadelphia, but it does it
remind me of a discussion I had with a local foundation that brought
me and other Asian leaders together a few years ago to converse on the
topic of Asian philanthropy. I did echo what the Times article spoke
about, which is that my parents' generation is likely to have a
pan-Asian identity and more interested in funneling dollars to its own
country or region of origin.

I also spoke of how the importance of family in Asian cultures can
sometimes work at cross purposes with the American notion of
philanthropy, in that it is engrained in us to take care of our
family. So a lot of our generosity resources are already in play when
the charity comes knocking at our door with its hand out.

Those were two strong forces working against stimulating giving among
Asians in Philadelphia toward Asian causes in Philadelphia. But as
with all aspects of culture, those forces begin to dissipate and even
disappear in the second and third generation. Us youngers are more
likely to have a pan-Asian conscience and thus feel a greater sense of
connection to other Asian groups in need, and less of need to be
solely concerned for our own. We're more familiar with philanthropy
as it's done here in the US, more comfortable with and interested in
rubbing shoulders at benefits and balls.

There's no right or wrong way to do this, of course. Would that those
of us hyphenated Americans be similarly attuned to the perspective of
those who have gone before us and those among us who are in need.
What is common to us all, after all, is our connectedness as a human
race, and the great responsibility and joy that is to be found in
being generous.

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