CAAP is pleased to welcome our newest Advisory Board member: Dr. Bassam H. Nasr. Dr. Nasr brings several years of experience in the community foundation field, and currently serves on the board of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, as well as several other boards in his local community of Port Huron, Mich. We recently had the chance to get to know Dr. Nasr a little better.
CAAP: What are some examples of causes you support?
Dr. Bassam Nasr: My community is always my first priority when it comes to giving. I like to define ‘community’ as the people living in a certain geographic area, with a common heritage, or sharing interest in a cause. I have been part of the Community Foundation of St Clair County for many years, and that made me aware of areas of greatest need in the greater Port Huron area and its surrounding counties. I have supported projects related to health care, education, arts and culture, economic development and improving the environment.
In my giving decisions over the years, I find myself choosing, in the majority of instances, causes of great need, those where my early gift helps the project take off, as well as causes that motivate other donors to join and/or leverage matching gifts.
I also support ACCESS (including one if its national institutions, the Arab American National Museum), the Michigan Arab Orchestra, and other Arab American causes, including work to empower and activate this community and increase civic participation. These causes are very important to me. I’m happy to have supported the work of these many organizations and look forward to continuing to support them in the future.
CAAP: What is your giving inspiration?
Dr. Nasr: My mother, Emilie, has been my giving inspiration. As far back as I can remember, while growing up in Lebanon, our family had less than average means. Despite this, my mother always found something to give to help families that were not as fortunate as us. Every year on my birthday, rather than spending money for a birthday party, she would take a gift to the senior home in our neighborhood that houses elderly individuals with no family support. My mother’s generosity motivates me to give back to others.
CAAP: How do you define philanthropy? And would you consider yourself a philanthropist?
Dr. Nasr: An old Oxford dictionary of mine defines philanthropy as “doing good to one’s fellow men”. Using this definition, every individual can be regarded as a philanthropist. We do good to our fellow men by paying taxes, and by participating in electing representatives at the national, state, and local government levels that direct these resources to areas of common need in our communities. Additional giving is done privately by individuals (traditional philanthropists) who like to give above and beyond.
I absolutely consider myself a philanthropist, and I also believe that every other individual has the potential to be as well, as long as we help them identify needs in their communities, needs that are important to them, and needs that remain unmet despite government effort.
CAAP: What do you consider the biggest achievement in your giving history?
Dr. Nasr: I think that my biggest achievement in my giving history is not the amount of money, but the amount of time I have spent as a volunteer serving on the boards of local not-for-profit organizations in our community. Being part of a group of dedicated individuals that help these charitable organizations manage their cost, identify community needs and prioritize how their resources are directed can translate into a substantial benefit to those organizations and to the communities they serve.
I was very pleased to see my son, Hani, join the Youth Council of our Community Foundation. I think that inspiring others and activating them to be part of the philanthropic movement is a great achievement too.
CAAP: Do you identify as an Arab American?
Dr. Nasr: I am an Arab American and I am proud of my heritage, and I also see myself as an integral part of the community that adopted us and where my family and I are thriving.
CAAP: Do you have any advice you’d like to give to Arab Americans new to philanthropy?
Dr. Nasr: I like to emphasize that giving can be anonymous, it does not have to be large gifts only and it does not have to be only by giving money to the poor. Up to 85% of gifts in the US come from small giving, often anonymous, and volunteers make up a large part of the work force. In addition, economic development, improving the place where people live by supporting arts and culture, environmental cleanups and environmental health, and by improving people’s education and health, helps communities in the longterm.
Philanthropy is a lifelong journey and I am certain you will enjoy the ride. I do.
We want to thank Dr. Nasr for his time and wise words – we look forward to his shared knowledge and expertise as part of the CAAP team! Read more of our Arab Americans Who Care series.