Happy Birthday AAPIP!

Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team. This is a guest post by Richard Woo, CEO of the Russell Family Foundation.

By: Richard Woo

On Sunday morning I attended the annual meeting of the affinity group, Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP).  AAPIP is a national membership and philanthropic advocacy organization dedicated to advancing philanthropy and Asian American/Pacific Islander communities. A large virtual banner projected across the wall of the breakfast meeting read: “AAPIP 2010. We Lead”

The number twenty on the banner was in bold highlight commemorating the 20th anniversary of the AAPIP organization. Looking around the room there were well over 100 philanthropy professionals from every corner of the country and every kind of foundation. Each of those folks represents their peers in their communities and foundations back home. My colleague seated next to me, Henry Izumizaki, remarked that the original impetus for launching AAPIP was the fact that in the mid-1980s the number of foundation professionals of Asian American & Pacific Islander descent in the field could easily fit around one round table of ten at a Council of Foundations annual conference. Henry was one of the first Asian American program officers at a foundation anywhere in the country back in the 1970s when he served at the San Francisco Foundation. Today he works with me at The Russell Family Foundation as the learning director; as well as leading the One Nation Foundation as its CEO.

While many of the faces at Sunday’s annual AAPIP meeting reflected the diversity of ancestries that originated from the Asia Pacific region, there were friends and allies from the philanthropic profession-at-large. One such friend is Tom Layton, president and trustee of the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation in San Francisco. Tom has been a card carrying member and organizational supporter of AAPIP from the beginning.

Not by accident, Henry, Tom and I sat together at the breakfast. Between the three of us we’ve accumulated 88 years of experience in philanthropy. As the “Three Amigos” we were impressed to hear the AAPIP chapter reports from across the country noting accomplishments in professional development, community advocacy, and philanthropic innovation. One such notable innovation is the fast-growing phenomenon of giving circles. AAPIP has incubated giving circles since 2005 to engage the Asian American/Pacific Islander community as donors. There are 11 different giving circles in 9 cities across the U.S. including the Hmong Women’s Giving Circle in Minneapolis, The Muslim Women Giving Circle in the San Francisco Bay Area, Asian American Giving Circle of Greater Houston and Saffron Giving Circle/Boston among others. Congratulations to the AAPIP membership, staff and board under the leadership of Peggy Saika, CEO, and outgoing chair, Kathy Im, for these and other accomplishments. If anything mentioned here captures your interest please visit: www.aapip.org.

Henry, Tom and I chuckled when many of the active and engaged emerging practitioners referred respectfully but somewhat awkwardly to the veteran grantmakers around the room as “seasoned.” Everyone enjoyed a good laugh. Later, Henry, Tom and I talked about the experience continuum from “emerging” to “seasoned,” noting the existence of two additional professional milestones further along the experience spectrum. The first term coined by Daniel Lee, Executive Director, Levi Strauss Foundation is “marinated.” And the second term offered by Tom in response: “I’m stewed.”

In all seriousness, Henry, Tom and I did have a deeper conversation about the assets and liabilities of experience. We agreed that we’re grateful for the opportunities of service and lifelong learning that we’ve enjoyed in the work of philanthropy. We recognize that experience informs our intuition, our judgment and our actions—hopefully for the better. And we also realize that an asset like experience can easily slide into the liability column if it leads us to cynicism, complacency or close-mindedness. If we’re honest with ourselves, this duality is a struggle we face each day, with each proposal and each new community we encounter. But striking a balance now in our approach to the work is a similar dynamic to that which we faced decades ago on the other end of the continuum when we had no experience and a surplus of passionate curiosity.

Congratulations AAPIP on 20 years in service to the field, the community and the issues that matter. Thank you for supporting all of us from emergent to stewed!

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