The Asian-American Foundation: ‘Enough Is Enough’

Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month saw the foundation’s launch and an immediate, overwhelming response.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

May 21, 2021

4 Min Read
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The month of May has seen the launch and phenomenal trajectory of The Asian-American Foundation (TAAF). Launched on May 3 by Asian-American businesses leaders, the foundation addresses the needs of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI).

Like other races and ethnicities, Asian-Americans deal with underrepresentation in tech community hierarchies. For example, the Asia Society reported that the number of Asian-American high-tech workers in Silicon Valley was more than 50%. Meanwhile, their representation on senior executive teams hovered around 10% or less. At the board level, it was around 8%. The Harvard Business Review described them as  “the forgotten minority in the glass ceiling conversation.”

TAFF was created to be a convener, incubator and funder for the AAPI community. It launched with $125 million in commitments from its board members. That is the largest philanthropic commitment in history by Asian-Americans fully focused on supporting AAPI. The funds will support AAPI organizations and causes over the next five years.


The Asian-American Foundation’s Sonal Shah

Sonal Shah is the founding president of TAAF.

“We created The Asian-American Foundation to stand up for the 23 million Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders living in this country,” she said. “[We want to] help bring us all together in the fight for our own prosperity,” she said. “TAAF wants to strengthen and build power for AAPIs, particularly as we face an exponential increase in hate and violence.”

“AAPI communities need systemic change to ensure we are better supported, represented and celebrated across all aspects of American life. TAAF plans to spark that systemic change and help fundamentally transform AAPI empowerment and support well into the future.”

Previously, Shah served as President Obama’s deputy assistant. She founded the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Immediate, Incredible Financial Commitments

At its launch, TAAF announced an “AAPI Giving Challenge.” The goal was to galvanize even more resources to meet the needs of AAPI communities. Two weeks later, they announced the challenge had raised nearly $1.1 billion. TAFF described this as “a crucial turning point in philanthropic support for AAPI communities. Such communities have historically been severely underfunded, receiving less than 0.5% of charitable giving.”

Tonight, May 21, MTV Entertainment will broadcast “See Us Unite for Change” at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT. Ken Jeong will host the event. The two-hour special is the first global event to celebrate and pay tribute to the Asian-American experience. The show’s sponsorship is led by TAAF, along with Bank of America, Etsy, Verizon and ViacomCBS.

“TAAF was founded to close critical gaps of support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and end the longstanding underinvestment in our communities,” Shah said. “Today’s historic announcement should send a clear signal to the 23 million AAPIs living in this country. TAAF and our AAPI Giving Challenge partners are here to upend the status quo in favor of a better, brighter future for AAPI communities.”

“The AAPI Giving Challenge was created to invite other funders, leaders and philanthropists to the table to help TAAF advance our mission. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we’ve received in such a short period of time. It’s amazing to know that we are not alone in wanting to help lift up AAPI communities. In fact, there’s a long list of organizations and people who are joining us in saying enough is enough — the time for change is now.”

White House Support

On the same day that TAFF announced its fundraising success, Shah and board members attended a meeting at the White House. They briefed Biden-Harris administration officials on their plans to deploy the committed resources across the foundation’s three priority investment areas. Those are combating anti-AAPI hate, education, and data and research.

TAAF’s representatives met with Cedric Richmond, White House public engagement director; Susan Rice, domestic policy advisor; and Erika Moritsugu, deputy assistant to the president and AAPI senior liaison. President Biden and Vice President Harris dropped by the meeting. They expressed their support for TAAF and solidarity with the AAPI community.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Buffy Naylor or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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