Literacy and Libraries for Community Benefit

The Cathay Bank Foundation is the nonprofit affiliate of Cathay Bank, which has a history and organizing principle that 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.

Literacy is a cornerstone of the Cathay Bank Foundation's education throughline, particularly for English as a Second Language learners. For this foundation, education could more accurately be defined as youth development, so if your program serves the K-12 set, your presentation will be stronger for its framing around mentorship and entrepreneurship as well as traditional learning. Parent engagement is also important at Cathay: opportunities to connect parents to younger literacy participants again could make for a potentially stronger application. Literacy programs (and all education programs) should focus on at-risk and low/middle income (LMI) youth.

Libraries also receive funding from Cathay Bank Foundation, and while that might correlate with literacy programming in the foundation's education sector, libraries also potentially fall under another of the foundation's giving areas, called "Civic & Community," which supports organizations that engage in neighborhood development, raise awareness of social issues, participate in voter registration and education, connect community organizing, and provide leadership development.

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. In terms of your literacy program, note that grants are given to 501(c)(3)s, but not directly to schools.

Most grants from the Cathay Bank Foundation fall in the $1,000 - $10,000 range, but two recent literacy and library grants are larger than that. The foundation gave $20,000 to Centro Latino for Literacy (Los Angeles, CA) and $13,000 to Friends of the Chinatown Library (Los Angeles, CA).

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.


Cathay Bank Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education