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.

Read the full article about shedding light on the overlooked by Stephanie Hsu at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.