By Dilnaz Waraich
This April, Muslims around the world will be observing the holiday of Ramadan—a month-long period of fasting from dawn to sundown, and of thinking of others, and of giving back. Philanthropy is deeply rooted in the Muslim faith, as well as my own.
When I was a child, the month before Ramadan, my immigrant parents would sit at the kitchen table with my sister and me to discuss how our family could give back. They would tell us about a family relative back in India who could use our help. Maybe it was for something critical, like surgery; or something invaluable, like education; or something practical, like a sewing machine!
My working class family’s support was not extravagant, but we did what we could. This experience taught my sister and me that, even as kids, we had the power to make a transformational difference in others’ lives.
My husband and I are fortunate to continue the tradition of sitting at the kitchen table with our two sons to discuss our family values and the organizations we want to support in our community.
During one of those conversations a few years ago, we realized we weren’t prioritizing Muslim American-led nonprofits in our philanthropic giving—so we decided to change that.
Wanting to understand the challenges those organizations faced, I reached out to our grantees. From our discussions, I could see the devotion and humility these organizations possessed. Without connection to the broader philanthropic community and funding support, these organizations were caught in a mindset of scarcity.
My family wondered if these Muslim nonprofits could be supported in a way that could help them move away from a scarcity mindset to a mindset of abundance. The outcome of that family discussion was the funding of a three-year study project called the Community Collaboration Initiative (CCI) that has been focused on building trust and a collaborative culture among a select group of Muslim organizations.
For the past two years, these organizations have worked closely with CCI to deepen their collaborative skills. In 2022, the third and final year, these organizations have formed five teams working towards common goals.
To incentivize the organizations for participating in this time-intensive process, CCI launched the $1.5M Muslim Collaboration Prizes, in partnership with the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative (MPI) at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, to foster a more collaborative mindset.
The Prizes include an “equitable twist” in guaranteeing a minimum award of $50,000 for any team that goes through the application process. In addition, rather than competing against each other, teams have the opportunity to receive up to $200,000 based on the evaluation of their applications against a set of criteria that assesses the quality and depth of the collaboration, and the long-term impact of proposed projects. These prizes are the culmination of an ongoing effort to help our Muslim nonprofits move away from a mindset of scarcity to a mindset of abundance and help them increase the collective impact of their work. If you are interested in supporting or learning more about the Muslim Collaboration Prizes, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With over 25 years of experience in education, community organizing, and interfaith engagement, Dilnaz exemplifies generations of engaged and compassionate civil servants. As an immigrant from India and product of the CPS school system, she has been able to overcome the inherent limitations that these institutions impose.
As a formally trained educator, her moral code and drive to affect change breathe life into her philanthropic, community organizing, and interfaith engagements. Dilnaz is an influencer and holds multiple board appointed and committee positions through the Chicagoland area with WBEZ Chicago Public Media, Northwestern University School of Education, Interfaith Youth Core, Chicago Theological Seminary, Catholic Theological Union, and Muslim Community Center.
Dilnaz has dedicated her family’s philanthropic efforts in engaging with diverse stakeholders, furthering pluralism and helping build bridges. Dilnaz holds a Master in Literacy degree from Northwestern University, and an MS and a BS from Loyola University. She is currently working on a Master in Spiritual Leadership.
This blog post previously appeared here.