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“Telling the Whole Story: Voices of Ethnic Volunteers in America”


The Shinnyo-en Foundation, as well as a few other foundations in San Francisco, supported the research and publication of a new book by Adjunct Professor Nora Silver, UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business. This book explores an often overlooked, but increasingly important issue facing nonprofits: understanding, attracting, and engaging ethnic volunteers.

Telling the Whole Story: Voices of Ethnic Volunteers in America
 (Community Initiatives, December 2011) shares the untold stories of voluntary engagement, which Silver gathered from focus groups in seven communities: African American; American Indian; Central American; Chinese American; Japanese American; Korean American; and Mexican American. Participants varied in age, gender, language proficiency, and level of volunteer experience.

“We wanted to understand not just what people did but why they did it and the meaning it holds for them,” she says. “Many people help others for no pay, and one of the striking findings from the research is how often participants said, ‘I’ve never really talked about this, been asked about it,’ despite the obvious importance of their work to them. “In addition, I’ve consulted with hundreds of organizations, and they said, ‘We can’t get enough ethnic volunteers.’ I wanted to give the volunteers a platform to speak directly to organizations themselves.”

Silver found that each group brought its own findings and themes to the surface, which she reflects in the titles for each focus group report. The titles include “You Get What You Give” for the Central American group; “Extending the Family” for the Chinese American group; and “Giving Generously” for the Japanese American group.

She also highlights four common themes that are threaded through the different focus groups, including a commitment to helping the next generation and spiritual and religious traditions as prime motivators for helping others.

The book is geared toward people who work at the board or staff level in those organizations, as well as public institutions and foundations. This new book will be available to download by clicking the image of the book and by visiting the websites of other sponsors; The San Francisco Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund — and can be downloaded from the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership website. A paperback copy can be purchased at