Cathay Bank Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education

OVERVIEW: The Cathay Bank Foundation seeks to “create opportunities” for the geographic areas its banks serve, with those opportunities touching upon many different sectors of need and community development.

IP TAKE: While education is a stated priority of this foundation, recent giving shows that it receives less emphasis than might be assumed. Within Cathay Bank Foundation’s geographic regions of interest (based on where its banks are), the foundation emphasizes Asian American and Asian immigrant populations. This funder also prefers fairly established organizations that can show several previous years of programmatic, organizational and financial successes.

PROFILE: The Cathay Bank Foundation is the nonprofit affiliate of Cathay Bank. The history and organizing principle of this bank also illuminates its nonprofit giving.

Cathay Bank opened in 1962,  “with the mission of providing financial services to the growing but underserved Chinese-American community,” starting in Los Angeles as the first Chinese-American bank in Southern California, and expanding from there with a “rapid expansion. . . fueled by successive waves of immigration, burgeoning trade between America and Asia, and the economic development of the surrounding community.”           

By extension, the Cathay Bank Foundation's mission is “to enhance the growth and success of communities in which the Bank serves.” The foundation lists affordable housing, community and economic development, and education as its three largest priorities, with additional consideration given to arts and culture, health and welfare, environmental issues, human services needs, and “programs that benefit the communities at large.”

That is, so long as those “communities at large” are in the states of California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington, which are currently where its banks are located.

The Cathay Bank Foundation explicitly lists education as a top priority, with a giving history that supports an acknowledgment of the importance of early childhood education. But more explicitly, the foundation's education emphases are English literacy, math competency, college readiness, scholarships for finance programs, and parent engagement—which can strongly relate to early childhood education.

The population of youngsters served should focus on at-risk and low/middle income (LMI) children. And while the foundation does give beyond its connections to Chinese and Asian Americans, there’s no question those racial, ethnic, and immigrant groups are priorities for the foundation. Grants are given to 501(c)(3)s, but rarely directly to schools.

Most grants fall in the $1,000 - $10,000 range, with recent early childhood education grantees including the Henry Street Settlment in New York City ($10,000) and the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle ($6,500).

The Cathay Bank Foundation has an LOI open to all, inviting anyone who fits the bill to submit a traditional LOI letter on a rolling basis. From there, its invite-only grant application has an August deadline; plan your LOI submission accordingly.


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