Philanthropy with purpose

Concept of Asian Giving Circle is rooted in generosity


The Building More Philanthropy with Purpose (BMPP) Giving Circle has gifted almost $120,000 to 40+ community-based projects since 2013. Their mission is to fund good ideas to build a better world. They believe that brilliant solutions for community problems can come from anyone and anywhere.
Co-founded by Bo Thao-Urabe (executive director of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders) and Minnesota state representative Kaohly Vang Her, the group is fondly referred to as the “Bad Mo Pho Phamily” by giving circle members.

What’s pho got to do with it?
Pho is a noodle soup often served for Asian family gatherings. BMPP sparks family-table-talk conversations that are unconventional and welcome all ages. They consider themselves “Bad” because they’re here to challenge how things have always been done. “Mo Pho” refers to there always being enough pho to go around; and “Phamily” because members are making a difference across generational lines.
There are currently nine families from Minnesota and Wisconsin participating in BMPP. They aim to gather quarterly, and use a point scale to evaluate the applications they receive for their annual micro grants. Each family ranks each of the projects being evaluated. The base-line commitment of member families is to contribute $1,000/year. Time is spent in family discussions, as well as in the larger giving circle group, deciding which projects to fund. Every voice counts, and adult members say their family bonds grow stronger by making philanthropic choices together with their children. This is one way of growing the next generation of philanthropists.
Lee Vue has been a BMPP member since 2020. She explained why she joined a giving circle during a pandemic, saying, “There came a point when I felt financially secure in my career. Generational wealth isn’t prevalent in our culture, but generosity is. My parents taught me the importance of giving back to community as we were able, even though neither one of them had a high wage job.
“I realized I was at the point of being able to give back last year, so I reached out to BMPP and formally became a donor.”
BMPP began as a Hmong giving circle, but now welcomes families and individuals across Asian cultures: members are Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Japanese, and multiracial.

Generosity runs deep in culture communities
Vue said, “There are giving circles similar to ours in many parts of the U.S. The concept of giving is deeply embedded in Asian cultures and communities of color. You tap into your community when you need support.
“With BMPP, we are choosing to fund small, innovative projects that advance social justice and equity for Asian American and Pacific Islander populations in Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Our funding creates impact in AAPI communities, but we believe in working toward justice for all communities.”
“For example, we recently funded the construction of a new dance floor for Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center on the East Side of St. Paul. Other grantees have included the Hmong American Farmers Association, Funny Asian Women Kollective, and Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment.
“A little grant may not sound like much, but it can make a huge difference. BMPP envisions a world where individuals and families are supported and nurtured, creating conditions where communities can achieve their full potential.”

2021-22 grant cycle
to open soon
For the upcoming grant cycle, BMPP will make micro grants of up to $2,500 for projects that advance social justice in AAPI communities, including building solidarity across BIPOC lines.
The micro grant must cover most of what is needed to complete a project. If the financial requirements of a project are substantially more than $2,500, BMPP cannot fund it. They also cannot fund existing or ongoing work.
Vue said, “We know that groups have creative and innovative ideas for advancing justice. Sometimes it just takes a small amount of financial support to bring those ideas to life – those are the projects we are looking for. If you have an idea that fits these criteria, apply.”
Visit the website for more details at Applications will be accepted mid-July thru mid-August, with final decisions made by Sept. 1.

Building solidarity across cultures
Vue, who was born in Fresno, Calif., moved with her family to Frogtown when she was in sixth grade. She graduated from Central High School and the University of Minnesota, and has her own perspective on why there is anti-Blackness sentiment in refugee Asian American communities.
She said, “My parents immigrated from Thailand; I was the first in my family to be born in this country. Because we live within a system rooted in White supremacy and racism, refugees are often placed in poor neighborhoods when they arrive. The system pits different groups of people against each other because of scarce resources, crime, and over-policing.
“Understanding anti-Blackness in Asian communities has become a necessity since George Floyd was murdered. It’s time to take a long, hard look at the racialized circumstances that shape this country, and to start moving forward together in solidarity.”


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