A Message from the President
NIAC has come a long way from our humble beginnings in 2002. During this time, we have grown a nationwide network and made important gains for the community. Our achievements have been augmented by key structural enhancements that have enabled us to grow from a staff of one and a budget of less than $60,000 to a staff of seven and a budget of over $1 million. In many ways, NIAC has never been in a better position. But there is still much to do and the need for our work grows each day.
Since our founding, NIAC has led the efforts to transform Iranian Americans into an active, informed and engaged community, but our work is not done. Our participation in American civic life must catch up to that of other communities. The ability to move quickly and completely and to speak with a united voice are the hallmarks of success for any community. Now is the time for us to achieve the same. It has never been more important for Iranian Americans to have a presence and a voice in American life, as well as a seat at the table where the decisions are made that affect us — in Washington DC.
During our first few years, our Board of Directors looked ahead and began to lay the groundwork for growth, preparing the necessary structure for the organization to be able to sustain itself and grow to meet the community’s increasing demands. Over the past two years in particular, NIAC has significantly improved its infrastructure and systems and attracted and retained a talented, dedicated professional staff. These are essential steps in supporting the kind of growth necessary to achieve our long term goals.
With the structural and systemic improvements made over the past two years, the ground has been broken for further enhancements and new activities to begin. NIAC’s challenge now is to expand our financial resources in order to fulfill our mission and meet our expectations for growth.
As a non-profit, we are always looking at our bottom line, and must constantly pursue the necessary financial support not only to operate, but to grow to meet the needs of the community. Over the past eight years NIAC has utilized a proven sustainable model where our annual budget comes from a combination of member dues and donations from supporters, plus foundation grants.
Currently standing at close to 4,000 paid members and 43,000+ active supporters nationwide, our grassroots network provides 70% of our annual budget. We supplement this grassroots support with grants from some of the country’s largest and most prominent foundations, making up the other 30%.
This model is working, but like all non-profits that are growing, NIAC faces the ongoing challenge of raising our entire annual budget each year. Each year we must raise more in order to facilitate our growth, outpace expenses, and enable us to plan effectively into the future.
This year, despite the state of America’s economy, our supporters answered the call and helped us once again meet our financial needs. In two online campaigns over the last 12 months we sought to raise $100k. By the time the campaigns were over, we had raised over $250k, more than doubling our goal.
The foundation community has also stepped forward and significantly underwritten our work. Leading foundations including the Ploughshares Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Connect U.S., the Nathan E. Cummings Foundation and the Parsa Community Foundation have provided generous support this year as well as in the past. We are proud and honored to have been the recipient of support from these prominent institutions and their endorsements will enable us to expand our efforts in many areas.
Our progress and our growth over the years have helped us to take on more and more activities and pursue more endeavors, but there is still more to do, and much farther we can go. Your support, and that of the foundations, has helped us in our efforts to prevent war, ensure human rights, create space for dialogue and diplomacy, as well as expand our efforts in promoting civic participation, protecting our cultural heritage, building our community, dealing with policy issues that affect Iranian Americans (visas, immigration) and fighting back against discrimination and bias in the media and the public sphere. Our successes are sometimes hard won, but we are not afraid to face up to challenges.
As we look ahead, we see signs of progress as well as areas of concern. Our victories in advancing the community’s interests in American society and securing our seat at the table where the decisions are made mean little to nothing if we do not successfully push back against the increasingly loud beat of war drums from pundits and politicians.
Iranian Americans have what it takes to be a viable presence in American life and a force for positive change between the U.S. and Iran. We need to remove the obstacles that hold us back – fear, infighting, mistrust, etc. – and build a cohesive, inclusive community that speaks and is heard; that votes and is counted; that hopes, dreams, aspires and is an integral part of the rich fabric of America’s democracy.
We hope you join us on this journey.
To make a contribution to NIAC, click here.