CHICAGO – Awarding grants to small nonprofits and organizations focused on American Muslims, the Pillars fund has been gaining national attention for pushing back against anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“American Muslims are eager to push back against caricatures and intolerance and support each other on the ground,” stated Inside Philanthropy, a national trade publication for nonprofits, Chicago Sun Times reported.
“The Pillars Fund is one grantmaker that’s been leading the charge from within the Muslim community.”
The Pillars Fund, cofounded by Kashif Shaikh, awards grants to small nonprofits and organizations focused on American Muslims.
It’s so unique that Kellogg Foundation, among the nation’s largest philanthropies, recently donated $300,000. Pillars has partnered with Aspen Institute to discuss diversity in nonprofits.
The group’s work received national attention after the election of President Donald Trump and the increase in anti-Muslim attacks that followed.
“I don’t think our ascent is a coincidence,” Shaikh said.
“People are looking for organizations and are wanting to provide a counter to a lot of the rhetoric that’s been put out there.”
Pillars was launched in 2010 to bridge the gap between well-heeled donors and American Muslims “doing interesting work.”
It started under the umbrella of The Chicago Community Trust before becoming an independent organization now with a $1.5 million budget.
Big names in philanthropy serve as advisers, including the Trust President and CEO Terry Mazany, Field Foundation President Angelique Power and Woods Fund Chicago President Grace Hou.
A few dozen donors annually give about $35,000 each to Pillars. Among them are marketing consultant Amer Abdullah, educator Dilara Sayeed and Google exec Anas Osman.
The Ford, Open Society and Nathan Cummings foundations have also given money.
The group has given grants across the US. In Chicago, it helped an Englewood health and wellness program and a suburban nonprofit addressing disability issues.
“It’s a small niche,” Shaikh said, “but it represents how we bring attention to the Muslim community.”