Arab Americans Are Giving To Humanitarian Causes
Arab Americans Are Giving To Humanitarian Causes

One-third of Arab Americans reported donating between 5% and 10% of their income to charity during the past three years, with more than half of those older than age 70 saying they gave more than 10%, data in a recent study shows.

Social service and relief organizations received the most support, a finding reflected in the 84% of respondents who said they prefer giving to organizations that provide direct services, according to data in the report.

The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP), in Dearborn, Michigan, commissioned the report as a complement to similar studies of giving in other communities of color and plans to repeat this research every 3 to 5 years, said Katherine Asuncion, the organization’s deputy director.

“A Tapestry of Giving” is the result of a survey of 300 Arab Americans and subsequent drilldowns with 18 individuals during the past year. The report builds on an earlier study done by the same group in 2006.

“Immigrants and children of immigrants in particular prefer to give to organizations that make a difference by providing direct services more so than individuals whose families have been here for generations,” the authors wrote.

“While research has been conducted on giving in African American, Latinx, Asian American and Indigenous communities, no extensive research has been conducted on giving in the Arab American community,” the authors wrote.

The invisibility of Arab Americans in the U.S. Census has further contributed to a dearth of information on Arab American giving, which the authors note “has a long and proud history in this country.”

While acknowledging that Arab Americans aren’t monolithic and have roots in many countries, the authors identified several themes that motivate Arab American giving. Reasons for doing so include a desire to connect with their identity, show gratitude and responsibility, and elevate the power and recognition of their community through collective giving.

“Overall, it was clear that donors believe an inherent purpose of their own lives is to give back to others,” the authors wrote.

The researchers found Arab Americans are also more comfortable giving to Arab organizations today than they were in the past, though “there was still some hesitancy in giving to Arab and Palestinian organizations for fear of political or professional repercussions,” according to the authors.

The findings were underscored by the more detailed answers of the focus group participants, several of whom connected their personal stories with a strong desire to support education, health, and refugee-serving organizations assisting those impacted by tragedies in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Palestine.

At the same time, the researchers found that Arab American philanthropy is making a significant impact in the U.S., with just over half of respondents saying they did most or all of their giving in the United States. Participants described doing so as a way to tell their own story about their contributions to American society and leave a legacy for future generations.

“Identity also powerfully motivates participants’ giving to non-Arab organizations as a way for non-Arabs to better understand the Arab American community,” wrote the authors. “Unsurprisingly, the longer a donor’s family has lived in the United States, the more likely they were to give more in the United States than in other countries compared to those who are recent immigrants.”

Other findings from the study included the following:

* Older respondents are more concerned than younger individuals about what percentage of their giving goes to overhead versus programming and direct services.

* Arab Americans younger than age 40 are more likely to prioritize support for immigrant and refugee rights, while respondents older than 60 are more likely to prioritize advocacy organizations and political campaigns.

* 66.7% of those earning $500,000 or more said they prioritize giving to election and political campaigns compared to 20% of those making between $20,000 and $49,000.

* Over 60% of survey respondents identified as Muslim and 21.5% as Christian, with the others citing no religion or preferring not to answer. While Arab Americans generally prioritize giving to their place of worship, Muslims were more likely than Christians to cite their faith as a factor influencing their giving.

* Two-thirds of respondents reported giving their time in addition to monetary donations, with 28% identifying volunteerism as the form of giving that makes the biggest difference.

“No story about the philanthropy of diverse communities is complete without Arab American inclusion,” the authors wrote.

CAAP is continuing to partner with others in the academic and philanthropic communities, including at Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy, to expand the scope of research into Arab American giving, Asuncion said.

The full report can be viewed online at www.centeraap.org/a-tapestry-of-giving/.