Cathay Bank Foundation: Grants for College Readiness

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 college readiness 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 college readiness as a focus area within that, more specifically defined as "innovative programs" to prepare youth for higher education. The foundation's other education-minded interests are financial literacy, English literacy, math competency and "student scholarship programs focused on finance-related studies."

But Cathay Bank Foundation's recent giving shows more emphasis on youth development and entrepreneurship than traditional educational programming, so you're better served positioning your college readiness program in a youth development, mentorship and entrepreneurial framework.

Regardless of how you frame the work itself, the population served should focus on at-risk and low/middle income (LMI) youth. 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. Grants are given to 501(c)(3)s, but not directly to schools.

Most grants fall in the $1,000 - $10,000 range, and 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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