March 31, 2023

Featured Speaker MayKao Y. Hang, President and CEO, Wilder Foundation

AAP staff writer

MINNEAPOLIS (October 20, 2010) – Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy celebrated its 20th year, with a national summit that connected chapters in 11 cities nationwide.

The Philanthropic Summit on Building Democratic Philanthropy was held locally at the McKnight Foundation building in downtown Minneapolis. The webcast began in New York with Gara LaMarche and Carol Larson, before transferring to the national chapter in San Francisco where speakers included Danielle M. Reyes and a keynote address from Peggy Saika, Executive Director and President of AAPIP.

“Community philanthropy and giving circles are neither a substitute nor a stand-in for foundations and institutional philanthropic investment,” said Saika. “Instead, it is both an invitation and a challenge to established philanthropic institutions, such as foundations and corporate giving – to invest significantly in community as a strategic path to increasing philanthropic capital to our communities and in moving individuals to act on their own philanthropic initiative.”

The Minnesota AAPIP chapter co-celebrated its 10th year by taking part in the national teleconference and with its own acknowledgement of local community leadership and organizations that helped found its own beginnings and influence on local foundation efforts.

The local keynote speaker was MayKao Y. Hang, the newly appointed CEO and President of the Wilder Foundation. She previously served as the Director of Children and Family Services at Wilder from 2007 until taking over as president last June.

Hang said the group of AAPIP supporters present had all been mentors to her at some point. She spoke about the common vision to create a just and equitable society; and the relatively new concept of democratic philanthropy – a topic she said is not always easy to share with people outside of the field.

“Building democratic philanthropy means that we must seek first to understand and involve those who are impacted and use the power of that knowledge to transform and leverage change,” said Hang. “We all need to understand and buy into a vision that is larger than all of us be hones where at, how much farther to go and be at peace with the legacy we leave to the world.

“AAPIP has an opportunity to shape the voice for those who are not heard and not just to do good but to be the one that actually shapes what good would look like for the community.”

Hang recalled that more than a decade ago as college students when she and Bo Thao-Urabe took action on their own and founded a few foundations from half-baked ideas Today, the results is Hmong Women Achieving Together, an award winning organization that exists to improve the lives of Hmong women and girls.

She said that social change for underserved communities is a process, where those wanting to bring change are also transformed from exposure to complex and interrelated issues to truly learn community needs, improve understanding and develop the tools to address them.

She said power is about people and money and the combination is a powerful vehicle to improve the community. However, she said another source of power stems from long term commitment to change.

“I have always believed that the communities can only transform only through the collective will of like-minded people who share a common vision,” said Hang. “And to me, two people can create a common vision.”

HWAT and its allies have since inspired others to invest in the vision they had 14 years ago, she added. Small wins and significant firsts are now improving lives and making an impact.

“We have now touched more lives than we ever thought was possible,” she added.

Hang has also served as Director of Adult Services for Ramsey County Human Services and as the Director of Resident Services for the St. Paul Public Housing Agency. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Brown University, a Masters in Public Affairs from the U of MN Humphrey Institute; and is currently a doctoral candidate in Public Administration at Hamline University.

The event also included remarks by from current AAPIP-MN co-chairs Dorothy Skobba, Development Manager, Minnesota Women’s Foundation Lorri Todd, Meeting and Event Planner, McKnight Foundation.

AAPIP-MN chapter co-founders Penny Haru Snipper, consultant, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota Jocelyn Ancheta, Senior Program Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota, offered reflections of what it was like to start the chapter.

Haru Snipper said that the two took interest in an AAPIP report AAPI needs in education. Local Asian groups were also working with the Midwest AAPIP chapter in Chicago on the Census 2000 project and the idea for a local chapter grew.

She said they found allies among local Asian leaders, other communities of color and philanthropy groups such as the Minneapolis Foundation and Bremer Foundation. She and Dr. Bruce Corrie of Concordia University began to design the structure of the organization.

As a board member and community organizer Haru Snipper said she was frustrated at the lack of perspective and that she learned about the push to get women of color into philanthropy to be in a better position to better influence the direction of resources and funding.

“We started from a community perspective,” she said.

Ancheta said that another aspect was with mentoring younger members to become involved and to learn APIA history and empowerment in the United States. The passion about the framework of social justice was a question then and has since become a focus of the organization.

“We felt responsible in the way we were helping that and we hope that AAPIP continues that role,” she added.

Bo Thao-Urabe, Director of BRIDGE (Building Responsive Infrastructure to Develop Global Equity), said AAPIP started as an affinity group to the State Council of Nonprofit Foundations to assist in taking a better look at the diversification of the field.

“In the past 20 years I think we can say that we have successfully contributed to that, although there is still much to be done, I think we have also moved into other innovative creative work that we feel is a contribution to philanthropy and community,” she said.

“There is so much to be proud of since 2006,” she added. “We are partnering with local and national institutions and community partners to talk about what it means to be part of infrastructure of advancing soil justice – not a pure racial lens but of understanding connectedness and interconnectedness and a future that is about a vision of everybody and for everybody.”

Since AAPIP opened its office in Minnesota in 2005, it has granted over $1 Million to support the local Asian American community to advance social justice. For more information about AAPIP, visit or contact Bo Thao-Urabe at [email protected] or call 612-729-1994.

The AAPIP Minnesota Office is located at 2801–21st Avenue South, Suite 132C, Minneapolis, MN 55407.

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