Minority Cultures and the Tradition of Philanthropy
James A. Joseph, in Remaking America: How the Benevolent Traditions of Many Cultures are Transforming Life, 1 considers the history and contributions of the major cultural traditions in the United States. For African Americans, one of the characteristics is the importance of a communal identity. Individuals are the stewards of the resources of the community and, as such, have moral duties and social obligations to it. According to Joseph, as the bonds of the extended family were broken by slavery, the black churches, mutual aid societies, and other fraternal associations filled the void. They provided voluntary services and financial resources to free blacks, eased the transition from slavery to freedom, and worked to transform government and the laws, which were hindering social justice and civil rights.
A multitude of motives of black philanthropy are identified by Jean E. Fairfax in “Black Philanthropy: Its Heritage and Future,” 2 including caring for community, solidarity with the oppressed, mutual assistance, self-help, social protest, the struggle for justice, and the enhancement of the education and economic status of blacks. She believes the church is strategically positioned to continue to be a major vehicle for black charitable giving and volunteering.
In “Three Strategic Questions About Latino Philanthropy,” 3 Michael Cortes outlines major traditions that may help us understand Latino philanthropy. These include the use of extended family networks to help individuals in need on a one-one basis, donations of time and money to the Catholic Church, and mutual assistance associations to promote and enable community survival. In addition, when philanthropy extends beyond the family and the church, it is mediated by personal relationships based on trust. It is important to distinguish between major Latino groups, because their origins and history in the United States resulted in different philanthropic activities and patterns.
Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing segments of the American population. In addition, this is one of the most diverse minority groups, composed of more that 20 different ethnic subgroups. One way to understand commonalities among these groups is to consider the concepts of giving within these major religious orientations and their philanthropic implications — in particular, the notions of compassion and service in Buddhism, benevolence in Confucianism, and the relatedness of all in Taoism.
Native Americans have gone through many transitions starting with European colonization. In the Native American world view, personal wealth is for distribution and not accumulation as shown in practices such as potlatch or reciprocal generosity. In these practices, giving is not considered charity, but the honoring of the community based upon a sense of mutual responsibility. 6
Women have been increasing in power and wealth. Data from 1994 show that 60 percent of the wealth in the United States was owned by women. There is little information on gender differences in philanthropy. However, a review of the history of women’s philanthropy seems to show that women are more likely to give to charitable organizations, wealthy women are more likely than wealthy men to make charitable bequests, and younger women are more likely to give support to social action causes. 7, 8
The diversity of charitable giving in our society is amazing and inspiring. May this brief overview of “who we are” and “why we give” aid you and your family in understanding and enhancing your own charitable efforts.
- Joseph, James A. Remaking America: How the Benevolent Traditions of Many Cultures are Transforming Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.
- Op. cit., Fairfax, Jean E. "Black Philanthropy: Its Heritage and Future." Hamilton, Charles H. and Warren F. Ilchman. Cultures of Giving II: How Heritage, Gender, Wealth and Values Influence Philanthropy.
- Op. cit., Cortes, Michael. "Three Strategic Questions About Latino Philanthropy." Cultures of Giving II: How Heritage, Gender, Wealth and Values Influence Philanthropy.
- Chao, Jessica. "Asian American Philanthropy: Expanding Circles of Participation. Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and Council on Foundations." Cultures of Caring: Philanthropy in Diverse American Communities. Washington DC: Council on Foundations, 1999.
- Op. cit., Shao, Stella. "Asian American Giving: Issues and Challenges." Cultures of Giving II: How Heritage, Gender, Wealth and Values Influence Philanthropy.
- Op. cit., Berry, Mindy L.. "Native-American Philanthropy: Expanding Social Participation and Self Determination." Cultures of Caring: Philanthropy in Diverse American Communities.
- Op. cit., Ostrander, Susan A. & Joan M. Fisher. "Women Giving Money, Women Raising Money: What Differences for Philanthropy?" Cultures of Giving II: How Heritage, Gender, Wealth and Values Influence Philanthropy.
- Sublet, Dyan. "Women's Approach to Philanthropy: A Learning Model." Von Schlegell, Abbie J. & Joan M. Fisher. Women as Donors, Women as Philanthropists. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.