100,000 good reasons

PARSA Foundation grants $100,000 to community groups


100,000 good reasons
by Mariam Hosseini

A core element of San Francisco Bay Area-based PARSA CF's mission is to strengthen entrepreneurial individuals and nonprofits that serve the Persian community. To that end, PARSA CF just completed the second of its two semi-annual grant cycles with $100,000 going to twelve powerful ideas, bringing its total number of grantees to twenty. Youth leadership, preservation of Persian arts, promotion of cultural understanding and public service 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. Expanding cultural youth camps from coast to coast, lifting U.S. sanctions vis-a -vis support of charitable causes in Iran, 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. Over time, as we grow our network of donors, we will be able to increase the grant pool as well as meet the ever growing needs of the community. By pooling our resources and being strategic about our choices, we can dramatically increase the impact of our collective contributions and ensure a higher return on our community's philanthropic investments.

PARSA CF is committed to continuously improving its grant application, evaluation and approval process. The national, competitive grant cycle - the first of its kind within the Persian Diaspora - now leverages a diverse group of respected community members who serve on PARSA CF's independent grant advisory committee. Their willingness to give of their time and expertise in evaluating applications according to rigorous and objective criteria, such as the applicant's ability to raise funds from diverse sources and the project's ability to scale and have widespread impact, not only results in a democratic and transparent process, but also ensures that community representatives themselves are selecting the projects they feel are most worthy of support.

* Strategic Philanthropy
* Call for Grant Applications
* Applications Received
* Selection Process Grant Recipients
* Next Grant Cycle
* Congratulations and Gratitude
* Grant Details

Strategic Philanthropy
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. Through strategic philanthropy, PARSA CF hopes to:

- seek the most innovative ideas across the U.S.;
- signal other donors by raising the visibility of grantees;
- document the process and improving it continuously for everyone's benefit; and
- give funds institutionally rather than as individuals, hoping to increase accountability and measure results better.

Call for Grant Applications
In July 2007, PARSA sent out a call for grant applications suggesting the following areas:

- Micro grants for student-run or university-based organizations;
- Youth summer or holiday camps;
- Programs for the elderly; and
- Documentaries and other artistic programs with potential for broad appeal, and/or commercial success.

Applications Received
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 activists are undertaking. The Levantine Cultural Center 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 building bridges between diverse communities in Southern California. Several organizations representing Persian arts applied, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Dr. Omid Safi, who is promoting the legacy of Rumi to both Persian and non-Persian audiences. Organizations representing leadership development submitted strong applications, including Knowledge Diffusion Network, which enhances the role of the academic and professional diaspora in the development of Iranian science, engineering, business, and the arts. We also received a number of applications from well-established student organizations, and were moved by the profound impact they are making on Iranian-American youth around the United States.

We encourage everyone to learn about the good work of the men and women behind each organization that applied. 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.

Selection Process
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 $1.4 million while our total grant-making budget was $100,000.

PARSA CF staff reviewed all applications and divided them into two groups. To ensure broad participation and an objective evaluation process, we formed an independent Grant Advisory Committee comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences with community building. Committee members dedicated themselves to a thorough review of applications and delved into the challenges and opportunities that each nonprofit faced. They applied their expertise as well as a rigorous evaluation process using 15 criteria to measure the effectiveness of each organization. PARSA CF staff then ranked applicants based on their total score and presented grant amount recommendations to the Board. PARSA CF's Board reviewed the recommendations and cast thee final vote on grantees and grant amounts.

Our Grant Advisory Committee included:

* Reza Behbehani, President, The Meshkat Group
* Ladan Behnia, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Mitratech Holdings, Inc.
* Bijan Farzan, Community member and philanthropist
* Ali-Gholi Hedayat, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs
* Parnian Kaboli, Community member and philanthropist
* Darioush Khaledi, Chairman and CEO, K.V. Mart Company; Proprietor, Darioush Winery
* Aria Mehrabi, Pacific Star Capital Management, Inc.
* Lloyd Miller, Professor of Persian Music, University of Utah and Brigham Young University
* Haleh Motiey-Payandehjoo, Supervising Librarian, California State Library - Sutro
* Sebastian Oghlidos, Founder and Managing Partner, Catapult Technology Ventures, LLC
* Houman Sarshar, Author and Director of Public Relations at the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History

We extend our heartfelt thanks to our Grant Advisory Committee members and board members 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 CF staff likewise dedicated months to familiarizing themselves with every organization and strove to promptly reply to each inquiry received. In addition, staff contacted each organization to review the specifics and parameters of the approved grant, offer the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback, and share ideas on ways to approach the next grant cycle.

Grant Recipients
Congratulations to the hardworking teams behind PARSA CF's 2007 Mehregan awardees! They include Iranian Alliances Across Borders, Persian Cultural Center, Eastern Arts, the Translation Project, Afsaneh Arts & Culture Society, Child Family Health International, the Tiburon International Film Festival, the Institute of International Education, Iranian Studies Group at MIT, Golestan Kids, and Iranian Students Cultural Organization at UC Berkeley.

* 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, held a summit for student organizations, and granted scholarships. As the recipient of our largest Mehregan grant, we hope that they can build the capacity necessary to scale their work to other states and collaborate with local nonprofits all over the country through a successful transfer of knowledge and best practices, thereby increasing the number of youth camps fivefold from 1 to 5 in 2008. 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.

* in 1989 in San Diego, the Persian Cultural Center (PCC) was established to facilitate public access to arts and culture. The center organizes and sponsors exhibitions and Persian music concerts by master musicians. It also publishes a bi-monthly, bilingual magazine, Peyk, which has a national circulation of 6,000, including the U.S. Library of Congress. Among PCC's programs is its Iranian School of San Diego. The school begins at kindergarten and continues with basic, intermediate and advanced levels, teaching the Persian language to over 250 Iranian and non-Iranian children and adults annually. This cultural center's track record is a fantastic example of successful teamwork, organization and reach.

* Established in 1977, Eastern Arts is an internationally active organization of dancers, artists and musicians who plan to create a Society for the Preservation and Propagation for Eastern Arts, where traditional Persian music and dance as practiced by a few surviving old masters will be passed on to talented young disciples. Intending to inspire other dance and music groups to return to the roots of Persian traditional performing arts so that they can be properly studied, Eastern Arts will be able to preserve and promote the highly evolved authentic dance and music of the Persian cultural sphere.

* Child Family Health International (CFHI) works at the grassroots level to promote the health of the world community. Founded in 1992, they fulfill their mission through Global Service-Learning Electives, Community Health Initiatives, and Medical Supply Recovery. Their initiatives include providing scholarships to send Iranian-American medical students abroad to learn about the way healthcare is practiced worldwide and participate in public health project work. Through this grant, PARSA CF hopes to increase volunteerism and service within Iranian-American students.

* The Tiburon International Film Festival (TIFF) serves Northern California communities by providing an opportunity for audiences to view cinema from around the world. It also serves a community of international filmmakers, providing them with a platform to showcase their films. TIFF's mission is to host an annual event that provides a greater understanding of the world and its many cultures through the artistic medium of cinema. Over the past six years, TIFF has showcased 58 Iranian films and filmmakers.

* The Institute of International Education (IIE) is a leading nonprofit in international exchange. Last year, 20,000 people from 175 countries received scholarships and professional training through IIE. For two years, IIE has brought nine Iranian students to the U.S. to teach Persian at American universities through the Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program, the first educational program to bring Iranian students to the U.S. in over 25 years. The Persian FLTA student teachers spend one year at a university, where they teach their native language as assistants to other instructors or lead their own classes.

* Founded in 2002 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Iranian Studies Group (ISG) is an academic organization with the aim of promoting Iranian civil society through conducting research on issues related to Iranian native and expatriate societies. By actively publicizing their findings in a format that is accessible for the community at large, they aim to bridge the gap between research, public knowledge, and policy-making. Their valuable programs include lecture series featuring prominent scholars and community leaders, analytic research projects, and the publication of Iran Analysis Quarterly.

* Founded in 2003, The Translation Project (TTP) brings contemporary Iranian literature to a worldwide audience in multiple languages. Enjoying broad support from the community, TTP raises the profile of Iranian writers and preserves their works in three ways: as a literary organization, production company, and think tank. In 2008, TTP plans to publish the Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Poetry Around the World, create an international editorial committee that will recommend books for translation, and translate and submit sample chapters of these books to their publishing partners.

* Dedicated to presenting the dance, music, and poetry of the historic Silk Road regions of Central Asia, Afsaneh Arts & Culture Society (AACS) educates and promotes the understanding of these cultures, supports artists as community leaders, and inspires through the presentation of traditional and contemporary works. Ballet Afsaneh, the organization's professional performance ensemble, presents works at major theaters, festivals, museums, universities, and community events. AACS's outreach and education programs offer classes in Persian language, traditional dance, music, visual arts, and manage an international cultural exchange and research program in Tajikistan.

* Golestan Kids is a year-old Persian preschool with the mission of building a strong cultural and linguistic foundation for Iranian-American children in the San Francisco Bay Area. They have just completed their first official quarter, and all of the children in the program are speaking Persian fluently at home and with each other. By making a grant to this school, PARSA CF aims to promote the idea of a bilingual Persian-English preschool, which most other established diasporas have, with the hope that such programs will eventually be offered around the country.

Iranian Students Cultural Organization was founded in 1988 at the University of California, Berkeley. The mission of the organization is to promote the awareness of Iranian culture at UC Berkeley and the surrounding community. ISCO hosts and organizes many events during the school year, ranging from small social gatherings to large school-wide events. ISCO's signature event and crowning achievement is the Norouz Show, which showcases the talents of its members as well as Iranians in the local community.

Next Grant Cycle
We invite you to join PARSA CF's Grant Advisory Committee and help steer our grant making to best meet the needs of our community. Please email us at <mailto:grants@parsacf.org>grants@parsacf.org to get more information. We look forward to receiving letters of inquiry for future grant cycles. Together we can grow donations for all nonprofits!

To view a press release on this grant cycle, please click here.

Congratulations and Gratitude
On behalf of the PARSA CF team, I congratulate the 2007 Mehregan grantees and thank members of the Grant Advisory Committee. We wish you and your families happy holidays,

Mariam Hosseini,
Grants Manager and Donor Services Coordinator

-- Grant Details
-- Focus Area
-- Organization and Project
-- Amount Granted
-- Area
-- Purpose

Arts and Culture
Persian Cultural Center: Iranian School of San Diego


San Diego, CA

The organization will teach eleven Persian language classes at two branches, staffed by 16 instructors. Over the past 19 years, thousands of children have attended the school, learning Persian language, dance, theater, and drawing. The school gives children opportunities to learn and explore their origins while creating a bond with other children of a similar cultural background. PCC requested $30,500 for their school's operating expenses.

Arts and Culture
Eastern Arts: The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Eastern Arts


Salt Lake City, UT

The organization proposes to create a Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Eastern Arts, where authentic Iranian music and dance as practiced by a few surviving old masters be passed on to talented young disciples. Eastern Arts will employ an initial cadre of 6 dance experts and hire supplemental dancers and instrumental masters to perform at major concerts nationwide and eventually worldwide. Eastern Arts requested $50,000 for building this society.

Arts and Culture
Tiburon International Film Festival: 2008 Film Festival


Tiburon, CA

The festival provides the public with an opportunity to view cinema from around the world and also serves a community of international filmmakers, providing them with a platform to showcase their films. The 2008 Film Festival will be the 7th Annual International Film Festival, where Iranian films will be screened alongside other global leaders in film. TIFF requested $50,000 for next year's event.

Arts and Culture
The Translation Project: 2007-2008 general operating expenses and the translation of the Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Poetry Around the World


San Francisco, CA

The organization will undertake a number of literary efforts and anticipate three achievements in 2007-2008: the publication of an Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Poetry Around the World, the creation of an international editorial committee that will recommend books for translation, and the translation and submission of sample chapters of these books to their publishing partners. TTP requested $10,000 for these projects.

Arts and Culture
Afsaneh Arts & Culture Society: 2008 Media Outreach


San Francisco, CA

The society educates and promotes the understanding of the historic Silk Road regions of Central Asia through the presentation of traditional and contemporary works. AACS will promote their work via a media outreach campaign. At this time, it is critical that a greater appreciation for Persian culture is cultivated among non-Persians and to that end, AACS will pursue avenues that will expedite this outreach. AACS requested $10,000 for its funding.

Arts and Culture
Golestan Kids: General operating and infrastructure expenses for the 2007-2008 school year


Berkeley, CA

The school will improve its facilities, expand its student body, and promote its program as an established and legitimate program for Iranian-American children and other families with children that have an interest in Iran, its language, culture and history. The school requested $50,000 for its 2007-2008 expenses.

Arts and Culture
Iranian Students Cultural Organization at UC Berkeley: 2008 Norouz Show


Berkeley, CA

The organization will hold its annual Norouz show in 2008 to showcase the talents of its members and will feature performances promoting Iranian culture through musical performances, poetry recitations and more. ISCO requested $1,100 for this event.

Leadership Development
Iranian Alliances Across Borders: Camp Ayandeh


Springfield, VA

The organization will create a nationally scalable template for youth camps and implement the template in collaboration with local organizations throughout the U.S. to execute 5 Camp Ayandeh's in 2008, up from 1 in 2006 and 1 in 2007. The camps will bring together Iranian-American high school students for a week of building leadership skills and learning about their Iranian heritage. Acknowledging that a positive understanding of self and community is a necessary component of effective leadership, the camps will create an inclusive environment where the youth can grow as individuals within a community context. IAAB requested $25,000 for Camp Ayandeh 2008.

Leadership Development
Iranian Alliances Across Borders: 2008 Iranian American Student Summit


Springfield, VA

The organization will hold the second annual Iranian American Student Summit, which will take place on a weekend in November 2008. Two representatives from 15 different colleges and universities will be invited to attend this weekend-long summit. The summit aims to determine how Iranian student organizations can cooperate with each other to achieve common goals, identify how they can correct misconceptions about Iranians, and establish how they can have a greater presence on their respective campuses. IAAB requested $25,000 for this summit.

Leadership Development
Institute of International Education: Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship


New York City, NY

The institute will bring 9 students from Iran to the U.S. for one year, where they will teach Persian at American universities as assistants to other instructors or lead their own classes. They will take at least two courses per semester and also share their native culture. Students will be selected through an open, transparent and merit-based competition of students. IIE requested $20,000 for this program.

Leadership Development
Child Family Health International: Scholarships to Iranian-American medical students


San Francisco, CA

The organization will award two Iranian-American medical students with scholarships for their Global Service-Learning Electives, which will send students abroad to learn about the way healthcare is practiced worldwide and to participate in public health project work. This program focuses on cultural competency in the health setting, helping students become agents of change through its reciprocal and scalable nature. CFHI requested $30,000 in funding.

Civic Engagement and Capacity Building
Iranian Studies Group at MIT: 2007-2008 general operating expenses


Cambridge, MA

The organization will promote Iranian civil society by conducting research on issues related to Iranian native and diaspora societies. ISG will actively publicize its findings through its lecture series featuring prominent scholars, research projects focusing on important issues for the Iranian and Iranian-American community, and publication of Iran Analysis Quarterly. ISG requested $10,000 for its 2007-2008 general operating expenses.



This is great!

by Laleh (not verified) on

It's great to finally see Iranians coming together and formalizing efforts to do good. We are such a fragmented group, and while we have lofty pretentions about how great we are as a people, we do so little to help each other. And then when we do finally have someone step up to the plate and actually do some good, we get snotty remarks like "cheapskate"?

How much did you donate to the community last year "Mermaid" What was the last remotely meaningful thing you did besides attack and then hide behind cowardly handles?

It's people like you that make it so hard to want to be kind (not to mention all the people who read this but couldn't take a minute and write a note of thanks to Parsa). On behalf of us all Parsa, Thanks for what you do for our community.



by caspianseamermaid on