Part of a Philanthropy A-Z series

Giving within ethnic communities is not a new phenomenon, and formal identity-based philanthropy began in 1895 when German Jews in Boston formed a fundraising federation to help new Jewish immigrants adjust to life in the U.S. What began as a local initiative in Massachusetts has expanded across the nation, and includes formal giving vehicles for many ethnic and minority communities, including Hispanics, Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and most recently, Arab Americans. The Center for Arab American Philanthropy operates on a community foundation model to promote strategic identity-based giving in the Arab American community, and is the only institution of its kind.

The mission of identity-based philanthropy is for minority communities, many of which are marginalized and under-served in the traditional philanthropy model, to band together to form giving structures that address critical issues in their communities. These communities are defined by ethnic or racial origin, gender, and sexual orientation. According to the W.K. Kellogg foundation,

identity-based funds are the primary vehicle through which this philanthropy gets expressed. Identity-based funds work by pooling together solicited donations and contributions from community donors and then redistributing those funds (through grants) to individuals or organizations doing work in that community to promote social change.

Also known as “population-focused funds,” this type of giving model distributes nearly $400 million each year, and giving among “donors of color” continues to increase.

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