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Why Are AAPI Needs Overlooked?


Why Are AAPI Needs Overlooked?

Stephanie Hsu shares an article that explores the issue Asian American Pacific Islander non-profits (AAPI) face when trying to access stable funding. 

This  past spring, we were in Chinatown San Francisco visiting low-income  Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth who live in 150 square foot tenements with their families, sharing bathrooms and a kitchen with a dozen families on the same floor. Their families are the unseen restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and street sweepers, whose average household income is $25,000. This is a community of about 500 predominantly AAPI families in a short block radius. Quarantining and  remote schooling through the pandemic in a shoebox with your family is a herculean feat. Despite the need, we heard from many AAPI nonprofits serving the tenement and low-income youth that they are unable to access stable funding from foundations.

Only 0.2 percent of foundation funding flows to Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) causes, and yet AAPIs comprise 7  percent of the nation, with poverty levels ranging from 10-30 percent  (range based on AAPI subgroups). AAPIs are the fastest growing group in the nation and their rates of poverty have also been increasing.

A common refrain we hear as an AAPI foundation is that the de minimus funding and attention on AAPI nonprofits is due to a perception of no need. Yet as the recent CEP report Overlooked (Part 1): Foundation Support for Asian American and Pacific Islander Leaders and Communities  highlights, AAPI nonprofit leaders are disproportionately under-funded and disconnected from foundations, even when they are affected by  systemic inequities.

Why are AAPI needs overlooked? Perhaps it is due to  harmful myths, paucity of disaggregated data, and the lack of awareness of the long history of anti-Asian racism. In the U.S., AAPIs have the largest within group income inequality — the top 10 percent of  AAPI earners had 11 times the earnings of the bottom 10 percent. This  obscures AAPIs living in or on the brink of poverty. Hmong, Bangladeshi, Tongan, and Cambodian communities have poverty levels of 20-30 percent. One of the largest concentrations of Tongan and Samoan (Pacific Islander) communities shares the same zip codes as Silicon Valley tech giants. I encourage you to read Grace Chiang Nicolette’s article, It’s Time for Philanthropy to Address Its Erasure of AAPI Voices and Perspectives, to learn more.

We were surprised to learn that our number one grantee need was a tie  between raising awareness for AAPI needs and multi-year, flexible funding. The anonymous grantee survey shared anecdotes about the uphill climb of having to explain AAPI poverty and community needs, and the  juggle of serving the community while raising awareness. One response mused “It’s either not knowing the need or not caring.”  Based on the feedback and our desire to be grantee-centric, we have been centering AAPI and cross-racial youth stories in our platform and advocacy. The finding underscores how much the AAPI nonprofit community feels equally unheard, unseen, and under-funded.


Key points include:

  • Solutions for the marginalized
  • Cross-racial work
  • CEP report recommendations

Read the full article, Shedding Light on the Overlooked, on