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.