A Brief Look at British Asian Philanthropy

I was in London several weeks ago and had the opportunity to learn about British Asian philanthropy and the work of the Asian Foundation for Philanthropy.

In the U.S., the term Asian American is often used to refer to those of Asian origin, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, etc.  On the other hand, the British Asian refers to those of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis.  The other groups are lumped into ‘orientals’ and in the ethnic section of UK’s census forms, the Chinese are treated separately, i.e., not as “Asians.”

There are approximately 2,331,423 British Asians, constituting about 4% of the population of the United Kingdom (UK) (Indians are 2.7%; Pakistanis 1.5%; Bangladeshi’s 0.5% and other Asians (0.4%)).  British Asians make up 50.2% of the UK’s non-European population, according to the 2001 UK Census.  The South Asian diaspora accounts for 10% of UK’s economic output.   According to a 2002/2003 study, there are 71 Asian millionaires, with 47 of them under the age of 40.

In the past, I have blogged about the lack of information, resources, and studies about Asian American philanthropy.  It seems as if the same case also applies to the UK as well.  There are virtually no studies or research on Asian giving patterns in the UK.  If you know of any, please let me know.

Asian Foundation for Philanthropy: Inspiring Social Change.  In London, I had lunch with Bala Thakrar, executive director and founder of the Asian Foundation for Philanthropy.  Bala established AFP in 2005 to connect the British Asian diaspora to innovative social change initiatives in India.  She recently won the Social and Humanitarian Award at the 9th annual Asian Women of Achievement Awards.  In a recent interview with the Guardian, Bala says it is important to link Asian communities in the UK to India because:

The Asian community has always been giving, but I don’t think we have been really thinking about it. We need to increase our knowledge on the power of volunteering. People can be surprisingly generous, not just with money, but with time and resources.

AFP has three program areas, international volunteering in India, development awareness in the UK, and financial support of vetted charitable organizations in India.  

To date, 60 volunteers from AFP have been sent to share their skills and experience with grassroots charities in India.  A local staff person in India works with the charities to identify needs and volunteers are then matched with those requirements.  AFP offers ongoing support for volunteer applicants and once selected for placement, volunteers are required to attend a pre-departure training program in London as well as a comprehensive two day in-country training in India.  AFP even provides a financial contribution towards the costs of travel.

AFP also provides financial support to their partner charities in India.  These 10 or so organizations not only receive volunteers from AFP but they also receive financial assistance.  These organizations have passed AFP’s due diligence process and they also maintain a high level of communication with them to determine feasibility of projects to support.  These organizations are grouped under four development areas: (1) education; (2) disability; (3) livelihood; and (4) health.

British Asian Trust.  Another group working with the Asian diaspora is the British Asian Trust.  It is a “grant-making charity established by British Asian business leaders at the suggestion of HRH The Prince of Wales in July 2007.”  The Trust raises funds via events and a membership network and makes about 12-15 grants each year across South Asia and the UK.  The Trust currently supports several charities in India, Bangladesh and the UK.  Many of these are in closely aligned with the Prince’s other initiatives.  Several well known business leaders sit on their board, including Salman Amin, President of PepsiCo UK & Ireland.

Do you know of any other similar charitable groups in the UK?

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