#PHILANTHROPY: #Sundance & A3 Foundation Extend Cooperation for Asian-American Artists

Asian American Artists Foundation
Shot from a film sponsored by the A3 Foundation

Though the Initial Public Offering of Facebook devolved into comic fodder last May, the fact remains that it made many people quite wealthy − especially those who had been working with Zuckerberg’s company from the early days. A number of those who cashed out their stocks and jobs at the social-network giant have since turned toward philanthropic efforts, and we would like to highlight one of those concerns that also is having a big impact on this week’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

The A3 Foundation was founded in 2012 by Philip Fung, Julia Lam, and Franklyn Chien, who were early Facebook employees, and who wanted to encourage both Asian-American artists (thus the ‘A3’) and those working on projects pertinent to the larger Asian-American community. According to their own site, “The A3 Fellows Program is the inaugural program for the foundation placing emerging artists with seasoned artists to learn and grow. The fellowship consists of $10,000-$20,000 in funding, as well as mentorship from more established artists, and the opportunity to build your skillset and network.” A large presence at the Sundance Festival is only the beginning of what they hope to accomplish.

The Sundance Film Festival was founded by Robert Redford in 1981 as a nonprofit meant to encourage young film artists by giving them space and collaboration opportunities with established film makers. The festival grew out it over the next couple of years, in an effort to develop an audience for the films being made by these creative upstarts. Today the Sundance Institute is large enough to offer grants and financial support to film makers around the world, and other nonprofits have hitched their wagons to the Sundance community.

The ‘Asian American Artists Foundation’ is now doing the same thing as an “Institute Associate.” One of the lovelier parts of the story is that the founders and their peers came from what one might call the mid-ranking staff at Facebook. They didn’t have the $100m that Zuckerberg or Chris Hugues had to create foundations on their own. The A3 community pooled their own resources, including the (social-)networking skills they honed at Facebook, to establish the foundation and to seek larger supporters to expand the opportunities to help in all media, not just film.

A great story about A3’s recent growth can be found over at TechCrunch, where you’ll also see a few fabulously dry comic shorts by some of the A3 Foundation’s beneficiaries. We think it’s also worth noting that the A3 Foundation’s strength comes from a group of committed individuals who wanted to pool their resources to achieve their philanthropic goals. Many organizations feel a letdown if they don’t land the marquee donor, but a few engaged mid-level donors not only can make up the financial difference, but you might gain a group of ready-built networks of still further support from those mid-level donors. Robert Redford did it for Sundance, and the A3 Foundation is doing it at Sundance.