Fostering philanthropy within any specific donor demographic has its challenges — but perhaps none more so than in the Asian community. Cultural and historical differences between Asian countries and the United States are stark and, according to Michelle Tong, donor relations director for the Asian American Federation of New York, they explain why it’s innately difficult to get its members to give. Asian immigrants just don’t understand the philanthropic nature of this country, she explains. And, in tandem, development personnel used to courting largely American donors don’t understand the disconnect. Here, Tong discusses these issues.
FundRaising Success: What are the special challenges in attracting Asian-American donors?
Michelle Tong: “There are several obstacles given the culture, history and nature of Asians that make fundraising in this population more difficult than in the mainstream or in other ethnic minority cultures. First, there is no ‘welfare state’ per se in the history of Asian countries. There were no government-enforced means of charitable giving or tax laws benefiting those who donated money. So historically, most Asians are not familiar with any philanthropic concepts.