The ASIAN WOMEN GIVING CIRCLE (AWGC) is the first and largest giving circle in the nation led by Asian American women. We believe culture is an essential part of any strategy for social change. We raise funds to support Asian American women-led projects in NYC that use arts and culture to:
- Bring about progressive social transformation
- Raise awareness and catalyze action around critical issues that affect Asian American women, girls and families
- Highlight and promote women’s central role as leaders, creators, developers and managers of these projects
Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in New York City (comprising 14% of the population) yet our communities receive less than 1% of philanthropic dollars. Our goals are to:
- Channel more resources into our local communities
- Engage more people to invest in creative projects by and for our communities
- Shine an authentic spotlight on our experiences and stories
- Promote progressive social change
- Raise the visibility of Asian American women doing philanthropic work
The AWGC Steering Committee is a diverse group of Asian American women who lead the grantmaking and fund-raising efforts of the giving circle. We are a donor-advised fund at the Ms. Foundation for Women, which distributes our funds solely at our direction. We are also a member of the Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) National Donor Circle Network.
Rini Banerjee has two decades of experience in philanthropy. An Integrated Capital Fellow at RSF Social Finance, she has served as Executive Director at Foundation for a Just Society, Program Officer at the Overbrook Foundation, and Program Director at the New York Women’s Foundation. She is a trustee of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and Board member of Funders for Reproductive Equity, and has co-created or served on groups including the NYC-based Asian Women’s Giving Circle, Philanthropy Advancing Women’s Human Rights, the Groundswell Fund, and the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing. She was a past Board Chair of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) and past Board member of South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!). She holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a BSc in finance from NYU’s Stern School of Business.
Chitra Aiyar was formerly Executive Director of Sadie Nash Leadership Project, a feminist social justice youth leadership program in NYC and Newark. Prior to joining Sadie Nash, Chitra was Senior Staff Attorney at African Services Committee and worked in international development at Grameen Foundation USA. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Bangladesh, and a volunteer turned board member at Andolan, a Bangladeshi domestic workers organization, which has received support from the Giving Circle for two awesome projects. Chitra is thrilled to have the chance through AWGC to support other amazing Asian American women artists and activists.
Leslie Chang is the author of the poetry collection Things That No Longer Delight Me (Fordham). She received a BA from Harvard College and an MFA from Columbia University and has served on the Board of Kundiman. A longtime admirer of the AWGC, she is thrilled to join the Steering Committee.
Lily is a nonprofit fundraiser, social justice advocate, writer, and attorney. She is currently the Director of Development for Lawyers Alliance for New York. Prior to Lawyers Alliance, Lily served as the Director of Development & Communications for Girl Be Heard, and has also worked at the Hedge Fund Law Report, Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, South Brooklyn Legal Services, and Earthjustice. She is an Aspen Institute Scholar, an inaugural member of the Omega Institute Juno Leadership Collective, and former Board Member of the Chinese American Education Association of California. She received a JD from NYU School of Law, and BAs in Philosophy and Political Science from UC Irvine. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn with her husband and two children, Samantha and Thomas.
Lisa is a writer, editor and communications strategist for progressive causes with a focus on social and racial equity. She was formerly a Senior Vice President at Fenton Communications, a public interest communications firm, and before that, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. She wrote a book of poems, Mouth (Kaya Press), received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and has held fellowship and residencies at the Center for Fiction and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Born in Taiwan, she holds a BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA from the University of Iowa.
Angela joined AWGC in 2012. She is a senior program officer at The JPB Foundation where she manages the Democracy Portfolio, providing grants that support immigrant rights and voting rights. Earlier, she was at NYU Law, Fund for the City of New York, Open Society Foundations, and Lawyers Alliance for New York. With over 15 years’ experience in social justice philanthropy and nonprofit technical assistance, she received both an MPA and a BA in Politics from New York University. She hails from Taiwan and proudly flies the immigrant flag. She loves food, especially noodle soups, and, on weekends, can likely be found at a rock climbing gym or the farmers’ market at Grand Army Plaza.
Kathleen (Kat) is an actor, singer, screenwriter, producer, and video editor, with a BFA in Film Production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA in Acting from the New School for Drama. She also serves as an Artistic Board Member for the theater company Revolution Shakespeare in Philadelphia. Acting credits include – for TV, Law and Order, Maniac, Broad City; and for theater Noises Off, Avenue Q, and Are You There, Truman?. She currently resides in Jackson Heights, Queens, and is very grateful to be a part of creating and promoting change through intergenerational Asian sisterhood with AWGC. In her spare time she enjoys libraries, knitting, cooking, a good adventure, a good hike, and spending time with family and friends.
A founding member of AWGC, Aiyoung is passionate about many things. Born in Korea, she grew up in China, Taiwan, and Japan, coming to the US to attend Knox College. She firmly believes in the power of art to inspire, embrace, and heal. She is deeply committed to ending all forms of violence against women, upholding LGBTQ rights, supporting the leadership of women and youth, and building peace on the Korean Peninsula. A former artist, teacher, editor, publicist, and human resources manager, she is a mentor, coach and consultant to nonprofits, and serves on several boards. Currently, she is Board Chair of Women Cross DMZ, an organization of women peacemakers that launched Korea Peace Now! a global campaign to bring an end to the 70-year-old, still un-ended Korean War. Aiyoung and her husband Gene are blessed with many grandkids, and she especially loves creative cooking, all types of music and dance, and traveling.
Melinda is a serial connector of all things Asian American, working at the intersection of government, nonprofit and business communities in New York City. She is on the Steering Committee of the Asian Affinity Roundtable. She was on the board of the Girls & Boys Projects (Institute for Labor & Community), a New York Cares volunteer, served on the Grants Advisory Committee of the New York Women’s Foundation and has worked as an account director at IW Group and a paralegal in the Law Department of Time Inc. A graduate of Grinnell College, she likes to work on figuring out her family’s complicated Chinese American history in her free time and relaxes by watching really bad and really good television.
Pat is a social change optimist and the Executive Director of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. She is the founder of the New York Asian Women’s Center and has served as Senior Vice President at Safe Horizon, Vice President at the Ms. Foundation for Women, and Program Director at Bolder Giving. She was formerly the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at the New York Women’s Foundation. She has a BA in Politics from Princeton University and an MSW from Hunter College of Social Work. When not working, Pat daydreams about ocean waves.
Shinhee is a founding member of AWGC. She is a psychotherapist who divides her time among the New School University Counseling Services, her private practice, and her work as an adjunct professor at the Center for Study of Ethnicity & Race at Columbia University. Her passions focus around Asian American mental health, literature, research, art and social activism. She is the co-author with David Eng of Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans (Duke University Press). At home, she is an avid cook who channels Ottolenghi recipes.
Tiloma Jayasinghe is the President & CEO of Community Resource Exchange. A movement-builder and human rights advocate, Tiloma has worked in reproductive rights and racial and gender justice work from the local to the international level. She has served as the Executive Director of Sakhi for South Asian Women, as the Social Affairs Officer for the Division for the Advancement of Women at the United Nations, and was the first staff attorney at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Tiloma also has strong roots in advocating for the entire nonprofit sector through her tenure as the Chief Program Officer at Nonprofit New York. She holds a JD from George Washington University School of Law and a BA from New York University. She is on the board of the New York Women’s Foundation and runs her neighborhood’s local CSA which connects a small, organic, family run farm with the good folk of Long Island City. In 2014, she received the New York City Comptroller’s Commendation for service and advocacy for women of color and immigrant communities and empowering communities of New York City.
Helen Koh is a writer and researcher specializing in East Asian culture and history. She has been on the faculty of Columbia University and is a recipient of Fulbright, NEA, and CUNY Research awards. Helen’s professional positions include senior management roles in nonprofit arts organizations. More recently she has been promoting interdisciplinary research in the arts and humanities, including in institutions of higher ed such as The Graduate Center, CUNY, and the Rhode Island School of Design. She is currently working on a book about Asian American artist Nam June Paik.
PATRICIA J. KOZU
Pat is Chief Operating Officer at The Century Foundation, which undertakes time and critical analyses of social inequality and security issues. Earlier, she was interim Executive Director at various nonprofits undergoing leadership changes. Previously, she was Managing Director at National Employment Law Project, and Vice President for Finance & Administration at the F.B. Heron Foundation. She has also held executive positions in the corporate/entrepreneurial sectors. She is currently on the board of the New York Foundation and is a member of the US-Japan Council. Pat is an avid sailor, quilter, and adoring baachan (grandmother).
Hali Lee has spent her career doing her best to democratize and diversify the field and practice of philanthropy. She is a Co-Founder of the Donors of Color Network (the first national network of high net wealth donors of color) and was part of the co-design team that birthed Philanthropy Together (a national effort to strengthen and scale the collective giving movement). She also founded the Asian Women Giving Circle which has moved over a million dollars to supports arts and activism in NYC. She currently builds out of her consulting practice, Radiant Strategies. Hali was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Kansas City. She graduated from Princeton University, studied Buddhism in Bangkok, Thailand, and received a Masters in Social Work from New York University. Hali lives in Brooklyn, NY along with her family, two cats, a big dog and several hives of rooftop honeybees.
Ellen is Director of Capacity Building and Learning at the Ms. Foundation where she was formerly Director of Women’s Health. She previously worked as Program Officer at Open Society Foundations’ Public Health Program on international public health and human rights issues. She is a second-generation immigrant and the daughter of Taiwanese floral entrepreneurs. Ellen has lived in China, Taiwan, and Italy, and has traveled extensively in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Southern Africa. She enjoys yoga, singing karaoke and baking with her young son.
Amita Nagaraja serves as a consultant and coach to clients in the nonprofit, public and private sectors, advising in a number of areas including strategy, program design and organizational efficiency. Prior to starting her consulting practice, Amita spent much of her career working in Corporate Responsibility, managing strategic giving portfolios and global employee programs for AXA Financial, S&P Global and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Earlier in her career, Amita worked for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and led a workforce readiness program at a small nonprofit in Jersey City. Amita has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College and a BA from Tufts University. She lives in Jackson Heights, New York with her husband and two children.
After a long break from practicing law, BJ joined the Compliance Division of Goldman Sachs & Co. in 2013, moved on to Societe Generale in 2015, and has been at Morgan Stanley since 2017 in governance, regulatory risk, and operational risk roles. As of July 2020, BJ will be leading CRA regulatory compliance for Morgan Stanley’s Community Development Finance group and community relations with CRA partners. She has raised three daughters and served on the boards of the NY Asian Women’s Center and the Korean American League for Civic Action. She has a BS from MIT, a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard, and her M.Phil and JD are from NYU. In her spare time, BJ enjoys Korean TV dramas, reading, and spending time with her family.
Shalini is a leadership coach with over 18 years’ nonprofit experience. She was the Executive Director at Sakhi for South Asian women, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending domestic violence in NYC’s South Asian community. She served previously as Co-Executive Director at Tapestri in Atlanta. She has a BA in Child Development from Tufts University and a JD from Emory University School of Law. During her time off, she enjoys hanging out with her family, looking for the best vegan meal, or writing stories based on the life of her grandfather—the first person to inspire her to do good without expecting anything in return.
Born and bred in Manhattan, Raquel has worked in the travel industry on development, strategic positioning, and negotiations of products in the tour market for Asia, Africa, and the US. She holds an MA in Cultural Policy from Columbia University and a BA from Fordham University. Alongside travel, Raquel’s other loves include theater, dance, and cupcakes.
Andine Sutarjadi is a speaker, facilitator and writer on next generation philanthropy. She is the Director of Next Gen Initiatives at 21/64, a nonprofit practice providing multigenerational advising, facilitation and training for next generation engagement within family philanthropy and leads 21/64’s next gen peer network and delivers ongoing learning opportunities to further deepen their impact in the field. Previously, she worked at Women Moving Millions (WMM) where she co-led the design and pilot phase of the WMM Philanthropic Leadership program. Andine received her B.Sc. in Health Science with a Minor in Public Health from Boston University. As a next gen donor herself, Andine is co-chair of the NEXUS Family Prosperity Working Group and a Technical Advisor for Pyramid Life Care, a social enterprise she co-founded with her mother that provides health and holistic services to elderly communities in her home city of Jakarta, Indonesia.
Vivian is Senior Vice President, Program, at the William T. Grant Foundation, leading its grantmaking and initiatives that connect research, policy, and practice to improve child and youth outcomes. Deeply committed to mentoring young researchers and strengthening the career pipeline for scholars of color, her leadership of the Foundation’s Scholars Program extended its racial diversity. She was Assistant Professor in Psychology and Asian American Studies at CSUN, and has a Ph.D. from NYU and a BA from UCLA. She is a fan of Star Trek (new, old, new versions of old) and reports never having enough time at the beach, eating, drinking wine, and being with friends!
A founding member of AWGC, Angie has over 20 years’ experience in women’s rights, immigrant rights and social justice. As chief of staff to filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail E. Disney, Angie Wang provides strategic management and operational and leadership support to Fork Films, Peace is Loud, the Daphne Foundation, and Level Forward. Angie has held senior positions at The New York Women’s Foundation, The September 11th Fund, and Safe Horizon, and serves on the board of the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families. A graduate of the University of California, she lives in Brooklyn and loves to spend most of her free time with her husband and two sons.
MELISSA WANSIN WONG is a fundraiser for organizations dedicated to social justice and equity. Prior to her role as a fundraising consultant, Melissa worked at the Museum of Chinese in America, where she led the museum’s institutional giving strategy. Melissa brings to her profession a diverse skill set coupled with deep subject knowledge garnered over two decades in the arts and culture and education where she worked in the capacity of cultural program producer, theatre performer, teacher, and researcher.
Committed to service, Melissa held multiple board positions in academic membership organizations and was a steering committee member at the Mosaic Network and Fund–a New York Community Trust initiative that advocates for the voices of and equitable philanthropic funding for ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American) cultural organizations. Melissa currently serves as co-chair of the Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee on the board of Women in Development, New York.
Melissa completed her Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, an M.A. in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, a B.A.(Hons.) in English Literature from the National University in Singapore, and an Arts Administration certification from New York University.
Home is Brooklyn with her family, and she tries to take advantage of the amazing arts and cultural programming that NYC has to offer whenever she can.
For over 15 years, Joyce represented the UN Development Programme in Jamaica, Malaysia, and Western Samoa. Her last UN posting was in Bonn, Germany as Deputy Coordinator of UN Volunteers, the world’s largest volunteer corps, serving most of the UN Peacekeeping missions. Previously, she was Executive Director of the Ms. Foundation for Women and Program Officer at the Otto Bremer Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was a founding board member of Women, Foundations & Corporate Philanthropy, New York Grantmakers Association, and President of the Museum of the Chinese in America. A long-time organizer for community social services, urban development, and the peace and civil rights movements, Joyce has served on the board of the YWCA Brooklyn and lives in Brooklyn with her husband Ed and their big dog.
We thank these women for being part of AWGC’s brave very beginnings:
Ruchika Bajaj, Kaberi Banerjee Murthy, Helena Choy, Amy Chu, Jennifer Hu Corriggio, Urvi Dalal, Aditi Davray, Tuhina De O’Connor, Danielle Do, Courtney Harvey, Taryn Higashi, Laura Hong, Trista Huang, Bomsinae Kim, Julie Kim, Michelle Lee, Vicky Lee, Young Lee, Pat Lian, Susie Lim, Lena Lim, Christine Nakaoka, Vicki Niu, Lisa Philp, Jackie Quan, Angelie Singla, Kathy Heejung Song, Sarah BJ Sung, Tani Takagi, Ruby Takanishi, Agnes Hsu Tang, Jonna Tiu and Mannar Wong.