Philanthropic Case Study: The Civic Engagement Fund for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities - Bay Area Demonstration Project

Mar 5, 2008
In September 2006, the Civic Engagement Fund for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (Fund) approved its first cycle of seventeen capacity building grants totaling $129,000 to support Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Civic Engagement Fund for AMEMSA Communities is a capacity building initiative designed to support AMEMSA nonprofit organizations through a mix of small grants and the provision of technical assistance. The Fund was developed through a strategic partnership between Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), an affinity group of the Council of Foundations, and The San Francisco Foundation, a regional community foundation. The collaborative now includes seven additional San Francisco Bay Area philanthropic institutions.

This paper explores this unique partnership between an affinity group and a community foundation developed with an explicit goal of developing new strategies to amplify the issues and challenges facing disadvantaged communities and identify innovative funding solutions.
  • It is critical to ensure that there is clarity and a shared understanding about the roles of the various foundations involved in the collaborative.
  • It is imperative that there is representation from the marginalized/disadvantaged community, in this case -- a Muslim voice, to guarantee that issues and concerns are discussed with full information and inclusive perspectives. This representation should be in the form of a funder/donor since a non-funder on a predominantly funder advisory board can lead to a power imbalance around decision-making.
  • It is critical to develop a deliberate process to invite foundations/funders to participate in the collaborative. The key to a successful funders collaborative is incorporating different perspectives, programming experiences and institutions with distinctive but complimentary missions and a shared vision.
  • The shared values of a collaborative are literally the heart of such an endeavor. Therefore it is vital that there is a thorough deliberation process where values and terms are fully defined and agreed upon.
  • Developing standard documentation and notation processes such as minutes, notes, and decisions are very important since open communication and transparent and accountable systems are pillars of a strong collaborative.
  • As the collaborative's work moves forward it is critical that the original Fund goals and shared values guide the decision-making process. ? It is vital that Advisory Committee members representing the diverse grantmaking institutions play a strategic role in guiding the future direction of the Fund. ? Rather than a consensus model for decision-making, Advisory Committee members should consider other decision making models (i.e a 2/3rd or simple majority). A communications plan should be developed at the very beginning of the process.
  • A realistic budget must be developed that accounts for actual administrative costs, for this fund, the administrative capacity needs were much higher than originally determined. For a majority of the first phase of this Fund, the staffing was part-time with no fully dedicated staff overseeing the work until August 2006.
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