Maryland Korean American Jeong H. Kim has donated millions of dollars to educational institutions in the United States. Alexine and Aaron Jackson, who are African American, give tens of thousands of dollars each year to arts groups, health organizations and women's causes in the Washington area. Cuban American John Fitzgerald directs his philanthropic largess to small ethnic theater troupes in this area.
All four are part of the "new face of philanthropy" -- African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and others who are thrusting themselves into the mainstream of philanthropy, which has for the last century largely been considered the purview of affluent Caucasians.
Increasing wealth among ethnic groups, and predictions that minorities will make up close to 50 percent of the U.S. population by the middle of the century, have forced the philanthropic world to sit up and take notice. Especially when you consider that the nation's nonprofits -- hospitals, schools, social service organizations and so on -- are searching desperately for ways to replace declining government funding.
As minority communities grow in size and in affluence in the United States, their philanthropy is also swelling. Consider some local recent examples:
* African American publishing magnate John H. Johnson donated $4 million to Howard University's School of Communications in 2003.
* Native American tribes have given a total of $35 million for the construction of the recently opened Museum of the American Indian.
* Hispanic technology investor Alberto Vilar has given tens of millions of dollars to arts organizations (although business setbacks forced him to scale back some of his promised donations).
* Kim contributed $5 million to the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering in 1999, which is constructing the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, the university's first facility named after an Asian. It will open early next year.
* In the past three years, Baltimore African American money manager Eddie E. Brown and his family have donated $6 million to the Maryland Institute College of Art, $1 million to the Enoch Pratt Free Library and $5 million to help African American children in poor Baltimore neighborhoods.
Of course, members of racial and ethnic groups have a rich history of philanthropy in their own communities, but not in ways that always fitted neatly into traditional U.S. models of philanthropy.
Asian Americans and, in particular, Hispanics send billions of dollars in "remittances" back to their home countries to help family members and to help build housing, schools, churches and hospitals.
African Americans have always given generously to their churches and to civil rights organizations. Black fraternities and sororities raise money for scholarships and other community services.
There are also deep traditions of informal philanthropy to help out needy family and friends.
But, say researchers, many are still relative newcomers to organized philanthropy, the custom of giving money to nonprofits in exchange for tax deductions and recognition beyond the immediate community.
"You have strong traditions of giving in diverse communities that have never really been brought into the mainstream of organized philanthropy," said Henry A. J. Ramos, a principal in Mauer Kunst Consulting, a New York company that advises nonprofit groups on ethnic giving.
Until recently, say the experts, many "mainstream" charitable organizations haven't made much of an effort to raise funds from ethnically and racially diverse populations.
One reason, said Diana Newman, author of "Opening Doors," a book for nonprofits on how to attract money from more-diverse donors, is the misperception that such people -- except for some Asians -- are more likely to be recipients of charity than participants in philanthropy.
Not true, she says.
"That old theory -- if it were ever true -- is not true today," Newman said. "There are a good many people in those communities who are perfectly capable and, in fact, are philanthropic already."
Alexine Clement Jackson, 68, takes inspiration for her philanthropy from her great-grandfather, an illiterate ex-slave who managed to buy land in North Carolina for a farm -- but first donated part of the land for a school and a church. "The whole notion of giving back has been a part of my family," said Jackson, who, together with her husband, well-known urologist Aaron Jackson, donates about $30,000 a year to various charitable causes.
She chairs the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and has chaired the boards of the Washington Performing Arts Society, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the national YWCA. She is currently on the board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Washington Ballet.
Philanthropy, contends Jackson, is empowering for African Americans and other minorities because it gives them entree into establishment power structures where they can effect real change.
"When you are part of the giving, you are part of the decision-making," she says. But, she says, "you've got to pay to play."
Recently, several groups have launched initiatives to increase philanthropy among various racial and ethnic communities.
In New York City, the three-year-old Coalition for New Philanthropy is trying to get African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans to open their wallets wider.
"There is an increase in the number of individuals of color who have attained some education and financial success, and they're saying, 'I don't have the ways of giving back that my parents did,' " says Erica Hunt, co-chair of the coalition and executive director of the 21st Century Foundation, an African American philanthropic fund.
The coalition has held hundreds of hour-long seminars at meetings of professional associations, social clubs, language schools, volunteer associations and alumni groups in various racial and ethnic communities in the city.
The workshops instruct would-be donors on the ins and outs of such philanthropic staples as donor-advised funds, "giving circles," planned giving and how to evaluate nonprofits.
"The goal is to really inform people on how to give back [to their communities] and the vehicles for giving back," Hunt said.
In the Washington area, such groups as Hispanics in Philanthropy, Asian Americans in Philanthropy and the Black Philanthropic Alliance have been formed in the past year to encourage philanthropy in those communities, as well as to push charitable foundations to award more grants to nonprofit groups that work with the needy in those communities.
In Baltimore, Associated Black Charities recently launched the African American Philanthropic Initiative. It has been holding workshops in Baltimore and soon will have seminars in Prince George's County, coaching would-be philanthropists on, among other things, the basics of strategic giving, and promoting the concept of making charitable bequests in wills.
"The whole idea was to have African Americans of means in the Baltimore community step up to the plate and share some of their largess with others in the community who have less," said Eddie Brown, who donated several hundred thousand dollars to help launch the program.
The Washington Area Women's Foundation has started a giving circle of about 20 African American women who have collectively raised about $100,000 that they will award to area charities.
"I hope that we will be an example of a new mode of philanthropy for African Americans, but also to lots of folks around the region," said Ruth L. Goins, 45, one of the group's organizers.
D.C. condo developer Fitzgerald, 57, who moved to the United States with his family from Cuba when he was 13, has pledged $30,000 to the Gala Hispanic Theatre renovation. "I'm a big believer that if you're going to have discretionary income to donate to a cause, the cause should be close to your heart," Fitzgerald said.
But nonprofits chasing after dollars from communities of color face some obstacles.
Some potential donors may be suspicious of white-controlled institutions -- even do-gooder organizations, according to a Council on Foundations report. And recent immigrants may lack experience with a nonprofit sector or with voluntary charitable giving in their home country, researchers say.
Rebecca Medrano, managing director of the GALA Hispanic Theatre, which is trying to raise $3.8 million for its new space in the renovated Tivoli movie palace in Northwest Washington, said she has had only limited luck among local Hispanics. Many are already committed to sending generous remittances back to their home countries, she said. And some simply assume that she gets plenty of government assistance because arts groups in Latin America receive more public funding than here.
Additionally, many affluent minorities may be focused on helping out more-needy family members.
Eddie C. Brown said he first made sure his extended family was taken care of before he expanded his philanthropy to the broader community. But, he says, he feels a responsibility to aid the black community as a whole.
"There is just so much need in the African American community," Brown said. "We need as a people to help address those needs."
Some minority philanthropists say they prefer to direct their philanthropy toward their home countries because they believe the need is so much greater.
Malou Babilonia, 39, a Filipino American who lives in San Francisco, has set up a small foundation that does most of its work on environmental and poverty issues in the Philippines. So far, Babilonia -- who made her money as a high-tech executive during the Internet boom -- has poured about $1.4 million into the effort.
"It's a lifetime commitment," she said.
But others prefer to direct their dollars domestically.
Charito Kruvant, who heads her own D.C. consulting firm, donates to many programs that help children. Many, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, benefit all children. Kruvant, 58, who was raised in Bolivia, also works with Hispanic groups, she said: "You give to yourself by giving to other people like you."
University of Maryland benefactor Jeong Kim, 44, who made $500 million when he sold his communications company to Lucent Technologies in 1998 for $1 billion, said he focuses most of his philanthropy on education in the United States. He has also donated money to Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and other schools.
"It's my country," said Kim, who came here when he was 14 and earned a doctorate in engineering from the University of Maryland. "It's where I live."