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Archana on ‘New Voices of Philanthropy’ blog

January 26, 2009

This morning, the following little piece I wrote about the Obama inauguration was cross-posted at the blog New Voices of Philanthropy:

On Monday, in honor of the National Day of Service, I stood at a table at the local food bank with retirees, grad students, Boy Scouts, and new moms, folding and labeling bags for the upcoming community food drives. Everyone was buzzing over the next day’s inauguration and one gentleman even said, “I really feel like things are going to be different.” At risk of sounding cliched, my fellow bag-folder was right. Things are going to be different now. The Obama victory ushers in a new era of engagement in philanthropy – particularly among people of color.

I had volunteered a bit with the campaign, made my requisite contributions, and certainly felt happy about Obama’s victory. But Tuesday was different. After it was all over, I felt strangely melancholy. I realized that I had sometimes told myself there were things I couldn’t do, positions I couldn’t hold, people who would look at me as an outsider – all because of my identity, race, name, or whatever other limitation came to mind. The President proved that those limitations are not blockades. He proved that we might have to work extra hard, but we’re all Americans, and we all have a shot.

In terms of philanthropy, I know that this feeling of unity, of possibility, of “Americanness,” will translate to our sector. The South Asian Philanthropy Project capitalizes on this excitement and draws more South Asian Americans (whose families hail from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other parts of the subcontinent) into the world of philanthropy and volunteerism. My co-founder and I launched a successful blog (please visit and comment!) and have started research on the state of giving among South Asians. We’ve had many interviews with South Asian philanthropists and nonprofit leaders – demonstrating their generosity of time and spirit. These conversations have shed light on the issues and challenges we face in inspiring South Asians to become more philanthropically and civically engaged, some of which I hope to write about in future posts.

If ever there was a time to reach out beyond what is comfortable to draw in new communities, new volunteers, new donors, and new employees in our philanthropic efforts, that time is now.

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