A core element of PARSA's mission is to strengthen entrepreneurial individuals and nonprofits that serve the Persian community. To that end, PARSA just completed the first round of its two semi-annual grant cycles with $114,000 going to six powerful ideas. Youth leadership, preservation of Persian history, promotion of cultural understanding and civic integration are common themes.
The overwhelming response to our national call for grant applications provided further proof that the community needs enormous resources to fight defamation, prevent our history from being rewritten, and cultivate pride in our heritage. There are countless opportunities within our reach that require funds and volunteers to bear fruit. Lifting the sanctions to enable support of charitable causes in Iran, expanding cultural youth camps from coast to coast, encouraging the large population of Iranian-Americans to register to vote, and investing in media projects that portray a balanced view of our community are just a few examples.
Some projects are too large for any one person or organization to tackle. By pooling our resources, no matter how small, we can move mountains!
In January 2007, PARSA sent out a call for grant applications. We were overwhelmed by the creativity and diversity of the grant applications we received, all of which were impressive and reflective of the invaluable work that our community is doing. The National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement is one example of an organization that is working to integrate our nascent community into American civil life. Their impeccably written grant application illustrated the great strides they have made towards this goal through their anti-defamation work. Several community centers such as the Persian Cultural Club in Campbell, California applied, all of which were built as labors of love and staffed by volunteers to serve the youth and elderly in their local communities. Organizations representing Persian arts and dance submitted strong applications, including Afsaneh Arts and Culture Society, which laudably brings in diverse sources of funding as opposed to relying solely on ticket sales. We also received a number of applications from well-established scholarship funds, and were moved by the profound impact they are making on Iranian-American youth around the United States.
With countless examples of the heart and soul invested in building these nonprofits and the variety of proposals we received, you can imagine how difficult it was to decide which applications to select. This was compounded by the fact that the amount requested totaled over $2.7 million while our total grant-making budget was $100,000. We followed a rigorous evaluation process using 15 criteria to measure the effectiveness of each organization and project. The applications were then ranked based on their total score and a final vote was cast. We extend our heartfelt thanks to our board members, advisory board members such as Laura Arrillaga, and independent Grant Review Committee members such as Haideh Khorramabadi who provided us with invaluable input during the evaluation process.
While innumerable hours were spent on the part of grant seekers to complete their applications, PARSA staff likewise dedicated months to familiarizing themselves with every organization and replying promptly to each email received. In addition, staff called each organization to review the final grant decision, offer the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback, and share ideas on ways to approach the next grant cycle. We were honored to receive positive feedback from applicants such as Dr. Nasrin Rahimieh, Chair and Director of Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at UC Irvine: "In my years of making grant applications, I have rarely come across this kind of nice human touch."
The organizations we awarded grants to are Promises Films, Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, Iranian Alliances Across Borders, Children's Hope International Literacy and Development, Stanford University, and National Iranian-American Council.
Founded in 1996, Promises Films will produce Global Moms: Iran, the first in a series of documentaries focusing on families around the world sharing their lives and values with viewers. We were truly touched by the idea of a film that promises to capture what mothers in Iran go through to raise their children and shed light on the rich motif of Persian arts that is incorporated into the art of child rearing by Iranian families. We were also impressed by Director Justine Shapiro's past accomplishments as producer of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Promises and host of the PBS travel series Globe Trekker, and Executive Producer Pamela Boll's success as an executive producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary Born into Brothels. www.promisesfilms.com
The University of Chicago's Oriental Institute conducted excavations in Iran in the 1930s and discovered the artifacts that are now on loan from Iran to the Institute. These 2,500 year old tablets are being studied but have not yet been fully documented. With a lawsuit pending that threatens to seize these precious artifacts for private ownership, it is critical to create a public record of this prized part of our heritage. Although the Institute requested $256,000, we were only able to make a small contribution to help expedite the documentation process. The University of Chicago is also seeking grants for a Chair in Iranian Studies to focus on ancient Persian research including the pre-Achaemenid language of Elamite, spoken by only nine remaining scholars in the world. www.oi.uchicago.edu
Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) is a group of young Iranians that has done an admirable job of building bridges between the U.S. and Iran. Founded in 2003 by two graduates from Wellesley College and Tufts University, it has completed two youth leadership camps, held three conferences on the Iranian diaspora, and granted scholarships. Although our grant to them is small, we hope that it provides seed funding to scale their leadership camp for high school students across the country. We are confident that IAAB will prove to be a resourceful partner to local organizations that want to engage the youth in their communities. This is an organization by the youth, for the youth, illustrating the value of the next generation staying connected to their roots. www.iranianalliances.org
Children's Hope International Literacy Development's (C.H.I.L.D.) Youth Ambassadors of Hope is another example of PARSA's commitment to youth and the development of leaders. In only one year, they have done a remarkable job of raising funds and building a partnership with Ashoka (www.ashoka.org). Their program fosters the development of youth in leadership, teamwork and humanitarianism, as well as giving them the tools with which to create and operate their own organizations - key business skills that will help them to succeed in the future. www.youthambassadorsofhope.org
Stanford University's newly formed Persian Student Association - Business Alliance (PSA-BA) emphasizes business networking to ensure our continued economic strength, one of the key elements of an empowered immigrant community. PSA-BA is one of many promising efforts around the U.S. pursuing national networking and it will leverage the power of a business-oriented university to attract members to its network. We encourage them to cooperate with business networks around the U.S. and form exchanges that result in a project such as The Indus Entrepreneurs (www.tie.org). http://psa.stanford.edu/ba
National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) is a Persian nonprofit that has created a remarkably large fee-paying annual membership. Founded in 2002, its mailing list now boasts tens of thousands of people and it is instrumental in encouraging diplomatic solutions with Iran. It has been a de facto anti-defamation body in confronting National Geographic about its use of the term "Arabian Gulf" as opposed to "Persian Gulf" and convincing the producers of Crossing Over to modify their negative portrayal of Iranian-Americans in a film about honor killings. Its legislative watch program has informed the Persian community about important legislation and how it affects them. In light of the upcoming 2008 national elections, we think it is more important than ever to engage the community to register to vote, meet with their congressional representatives to voice their opinions and learn how to effectively gain recognition in the U.S. media. PARSA's grant will enable NIAC to implement ten workshops to train up to 500 community activists who in turn will be able to mobilize their local community to act and register to vote. www.niacouncil.org
We are so fortunate to live in the most philanthropic nation in the world where nine out of ten households make a donation each year and where 77% of the $260 billion in annual giving is made by individuals. As our fellow Americans are seeking strategies to get a higher return out of every dollar they donate, we in the Persian community are also striving for higher impact and endeavoring to learn from their best practices. This unprecedented national competitive grant process was our first step in practicing strategic philanthropy:
- seeking the most innovative ideas across the U.S.;
- signaling other donors by raising the visibility of grantees;
- documenting the process and improving it continuously for everyone's benefit; and
- giving funds institutionally rather than as individuals, hoping to increase
accountability and better measure results.
If you are not already familiar with them, we encourage you to learn about the recipient organizations we have given grants to as well as other organizations that applied, such as NLSCA, Iranian Scholarship Fund, and Iranian Studies Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They are deserving of our community's support, so please look them up and contribute to them in any way you can: donating, volunteering and passing on the word. For a full list of applicants, please click here.
Next Grant Cycle
We invite you to join PARSA's Grant Review Committee and help steer our grant making to best meet the needs of our community. Please email us at email@example.com to get more information. We look forward to receiving letters of inquiry for the Mehregan grant cycle well before the application deadline of August 15. Together we can grow donations for all nonprofits.
Wishing you and your families a joyful summer,
PARSA Community Foundation Team: Anouk Lim, Mariam Hosseini and Radha Blackman
1. Arts & Culture – Promises Films, Global Moms Iran: $25,000. The production team will create a feature-length documentary film taking Academy-Award nominated producer/director Justine Shapiro and her six-year old son Mateo to live for three months with three families in Iran and explore Persian influences on family life. The families represent a range of Iran's middle class, including a modern, secular family, a traditional, religious family, and a single mom and her child. By capturing the intimate relationships that Justine and these Iranian families forge with one another, Global Moms: Iran aims to broaden the dialogue and perspective on Persian culture and Iran. Location: Berkeley California
2. Arts & Culture - Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, Persepolis Fortification Archive Project: $25,000. The institute will preserve and publicize thousands of clay tablets, fragments and seals of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, the largest and most detailed collection of the empire's artifacts. Current litigation and the threat of seizure of these tablets compels the Oriental Institute to accelerate their efforts through the use of cutting edge technology to record the information contained in this extraordinary project and make it available to scholars worldwide before it is lost. What will be learned is indispensable to the study of the history, languages and art of the empire at its zenith. Location: Chicago, Illinois.
3. Leadership Development - Iranian Alliances Across Borders, Camp Ayandeh: $5,000. The camp will bring together over 50 Iranian-American high school students from around the country for a week of building leadership skills and learning about their Iranian heritage. Camp Ayandeh follows the premise that leadership capacity is comprised of four interrelated developmental themes: 1) collaboration, 2) cultural identity, 3) solidarity, and 4) reflection. Acknowledging that a positive understanding of self and community is a necessary component of effective leadership, the camp will create an inclusive environment where the youth can grow as individuals within a community context. Location: Brandeis, VA.
4. Leadership Development - Children's Hope International Literacy and Development, Youth Ambassadors of Hope: $5,000. The organization aims to empower Iranian youth between the ages of 12-25 to create and lead projects and organizations which benefit their communities locally and abroad. By providing startup grants to qualifying teams, YAH helps youth become familiarized with the fundamental organizational skills required to lead a group of other individuals in an effective and productive manner. Through its partnership with Youth Ventures (Ashoka), the program fosters the development of leaders with socially beneficial agendas. Location: Laguna Hills, CA.
5. Leadership Development - Stanford University, Persian Student Association - Business Alliance: $4,000. The organization will create a forum for communication and foster collaborative work through events that will include workshops, seminars, and discussion forums involving various members of the local community and industry. Each event will focus on a specific business or research topic, will feature the firsthand wisdom and advice of one or more guest speakers, and will provide opportunities for professional networking. PSA-BA introduces students to various post-graduate options while fostering the collaboration and communication required to fully realize each student's potential. Location: Palo Alto, CA.
6. Civic Engagement and Capacity Building - National Iranian-American Council, Iranian-American Civil Society Development Program: $50,000. The council will train community leaders to participate in the political process, conduct voter registration drives and assume social leadership. These activities will be conducted through NIAC's civic participation workshops, legislation watch program, and meetings between Iranian-American voters and their election officials nationwide. In addition, it will partner with organizations such as BAIVOTER (Bay Area Iranian-American Voter Association) of San Francisco, California, to assist with voter registration drives across the country. NIAC aims to enable, facilitate and promote civic participation by Iranian-Americans through this program. Location: Washington, DC.