Dec 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Soros group investing $40M in underfunded communities, including Asian Americans

Protesters hold placards outside Parliament Square during the Stop Asian Hate rally in London
Protesters at a Stop Asian Hate rally in London. Photo: May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Open Society Foundations is investing $42.5 million over five years in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Muslim, Arab and South Asian (MASA) communities, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The foundation says they are some of the largest grants given in the space. The money will be used for nonpartisan efforts, and more direct advocacy by organizations dedicated to and led by these minority communities — which have historically received little philanthropic support.

  • It's a large sum, but "we really do hope others join us," Laleh Ispahani, co-director of OSF-U.S., told Axios.
  • "Our investment won't come close to meeting the needs of this community."
  • OSF was founded in 1993 by philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros. He's donated over $32 billion to the foundation.

Between the lines: The new grants will go to 15 organizations. The funding is part of OSF's broader, 10-year campaign to build and protect a multiracial democracy.

  • OSF also announced $10 million in grants over five years for Native American-led organizations earlier this year.
  • The latest AAPI and MASA recipients work on a range of issues — such as increasing civic participation, voter outreach, pushing for policy reforms and combatting discrimination.

What they're saying: While groups can't donate the funds to political campaigns, the combination of (c)(3) and (c)(4) money "allows us to do advocacy on the issues that concern the community without worrying about any restrictions," said Wa'el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage.

Emgage focuses on engaging and empowering Muslim Americans, and is one of the OSF grantees.

  • "We can use it to strongly push back against redistricting, encroachment on voter rights, on policies that may harm marginalized communities," he added.
  • The AAPI Civic Engagement Fund will funnel the OSF investment to its network of local groups.
  • "If we don't have strong local groups, we're not going to have the ability to reach AAPI communities and enable them to participate in this democracy," the fund's director, EunSook Lee, told Axios.

The big picture: The AAPI population is the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. — nearly doubling between 2000 and 2019.

Asian American voters also played a critical role in 2020 election outcomes, particularly in the key states of Georgia and Arizona.

  • Nonetheless, Asian Americans remain "somewhat peripheral to discussions of American elections and democracy," OSF's Ispahani said.
  • They also have experienced a spike in racism, hate crimes and violence this year.
  • Despite all of this, a recent report found that only 0.2% of grants from U.S. foundations went toward AAPI communities.
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