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Exploring Our Resources: Philanthropy By Pakistani Diaspora in the USA

April 24, 2009

logo1The Pakistan Center for Philanthropy conducted a study aimed at better understanding what portion of the Pakistani-Americans are engaged in philanthropic giving. Priyanka first covered this report here, but since it’s so important, I thought I’d add my two sense as a part of my series on Exploring our Resources.

The study was conducted through the analysis of 54 focus group discussions, 461 completed surveys, and perspectives from individual interviews. They found that about 500,000 Pakistanis reside in the states and they contribute about 1 billion dollars in money, goods, and time. This figure is broken down into $250 million given in cash and $750 million in time volunteered. On average, Pakistani-American households contribute 3.5% of their income to organizations that support arts and culture, sports and recreation, community support, institutions of faith, professional fraternities, and research. The study found that Pakistani-Americans also prefer to give directly to individuals in need vs. contributing to foundations or other intermediary sources. Another interesting finding of this study is that many Pakistani-Americans attribute their interest in giving to their faith but largely give to support social issues. Giving to the poor is promoted within their religion but the funds are not mediated by faith-based organizations. When giving to faith based organizations it is with the intent of promoting that institution and not as a way to funnel funds to the poor. Again, the emphasis to give directly to the needy is promoted in this way.

The study also found that 60% of Pakistani-American giving is concentrated within the USA. This is largely attributed to major structural barriers in giving to Pakistan. These barriers include a chronic lack of trust within the civic sector in Pakistan, a lack of convenient mechanisms to transfer funds to Pakistan post 9/11, and a lack of information about philanthropic organizations in Pakistan. They also found that 83% of their participants felt that given the right conditions their own Pakistan related giving would increase. However, though there is a large amount of unease within the community post 9/11, their giving practices have not been affected. Lastly, they found that 40% of the cash and in-kind giving goes to Pakistani causes in Pakistan, 20% to Pakistani causes in the U.S. and 40% to causes unrelated to Pakistan. This shows that the Pakistani-American sense of philanthropy is not limited to Pakistani causes.

What I found interesting about this study was that 40% of Pakistani-American giving is unrelated to Pakistani causes. This, to me, shows a level of civic engagement within the larger American communities that Pakistani-Americans live in.

As members of this group, or members of other South Asian groups, what do you think are the pros and cons of giving to causes that are specific to your ethnicity?

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