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PARSA Community Foundation Announces 2008 Norooz Grantees!



A core element of PARSA CF's mission is to strengthen entrepreneurial individuals and nonprofits that serve the Persian community.  To that end, PARSA CF recently completed its grant review process with $105,000 in grants going to nine powerful ideas. This is our third competitive grant cycle, bringing the total number of grants awarded to twenty-nine and the cumulative amount of grants given to $419,000. Preservation and advancement of Persian arts and promotion of cultural understanding are common themes in this grant round.  Read below for information about PARSA CF's upcoming grant deadline for the 2008 Mehregan grant cycle.


The overwhelming response to our national call for grant applications provided further proof that the community needs enormous resources to mobilize toward common goals and cultivate pride in our heritage. There are countless opportunities within our reach that require funds and volunteers to bear fruit. Expanding cultural youth camps from coast to coast, lifting U.S. sanctions vis--vis support of charitable causes in Iran, encouraging the large population of Iranian-Americans to register to vote, and investing in media projects that portray a balanced view of our community are just a few examples.


Some projects are too large for any one person or organization to tackle. Over time, as we grow our network of donors, we will be able to increase the grant pool as well as meet the ever growing needs of the community. By pooling our resources and being strategic about our choices, we can dramatically increase the impact of our collective contributions and ensure a higher return on our community's philanthropic investments.  


PARSA CF is committed to continuously improving its grant application, evaluation and approval process.  The national, competitive grant cycle - the first of its kind within the Persian diaspora - now leverages a diverse group of respected community members who serve on PARSA CF's independent Grant Advisory Committee.  Their willingness to give of their time and expertise in evaluating applications according to rigorous and objective criteria, such as the applicant's ability to raise funds from diverse sources and the project's ability to scale and have widespread impact, not only results in a democratic and transparent process, but also ensures that community representatives themselves are selecting the projects they feel are most worthy of support.



Strategic Philanthropy


As our fellow Americans are seeking strategies to get a higher return out of every dollar they donate, we in the Persian community are also striving for higher impact and seeking to learn from their best practices. Through strategic philanthropy, PARSA CF hopes to:


- seek the most innovative ideas across the U.S. and beyond;

- signal other donors by raising the visibility of grantees;

- document the process and improve it continuously for everyone's benefit; and

- give funds institutionally rather than as individuals, hoping to increase accountability and better measure results.



Call for Grant Applications


In November 2007, PARSA sent out a call for grant applications suggesting the following areas:


- Micro grants for student-run or university-based organizations;

- Youth leadership camps;

- Successful nationwide voter registration drives; and

- Documentaries and other artistic programs with potential for broad appeal, and/or commercial success.



Applications Received

We were overwhelmed by the creativity and diversity of the grant applications we received, all of which were impressive and reflective of the invaluable work that our community activists are undertaking. Mona Foundation is one example of an organization that is working to integrate our nascent community into public service through involving Persians in its grassroots educational initiatives around the world.  Their impeccably written grant application illustrated the great strides they have made towards this goal thanks to the generosity of its majority Persian donor base. Several organizations representing Persian arts applied, such as the Global Youth Action Network, which is creating the documentary Nobody's Enemy.  This film will give the Iranian diaspora and the Western world a glimpse into the daily lives of young Iranians. We also received a number of applications from well-established student organizations and were moved by the impact they are making on fostering leadership, cultural pride and activism in Iranian-American youth.


We encourage everyone to learn about the good work of the men and women behind each organization that applied. They are deserving of our community's support, so please look them up and contribute to them in any way you can: donating, volunteering and passing on the word. For a full list of applicants, please click here.


Selection Process


With countless examples of the heart and soul invested in building these nonprofits and the variety of proposals we received, you can imagine how difficult it was to decide which applications to select.  This was compounded by the fact that the amount requested totaled over $1.4 million while our total grant-making budget was $105,000.


To ensure broad participation and an objective evaluation process, we formed an independent Grant Advisory Committee comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences.  Committee members dedicated themselves to a thorough review of applications and delved into the challenges and opportunities that each nonprofit faced. They applied their expertise as well as a rigorous evaluation process using eight criteria to evaluate each organization's request. PARSA CF staff then ranked applicants based on their total score and presented grant amount recommendations to the Board of Directors.  PARSA CF's Board reviewed the recommendations and cast their final vote on grantees and grant amounts.


Our Grant Advisory Committee included:

  • Alaleh Azarkish, Director of Business Development and Legal Affairs, Renkoo, Inc. (Now a PARSA CF Board Member)

  • Poopak Bariani, Director of Pharmacy, Community Hospital of Los Gatos

  • Sima Dahi, M.S., R.D., Meals on Wheels Director, Peninsula Volunteers, Inc.

  • Mahnaz Ebrahimi, President of Persian Cultural Center

  • Bijan Farzan, Community Leader

  • Ali-Gholi Hedayat, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs (Now a PARSA CF Board Member)

  • Parnian Kaboli, Community Leader

  • Aria Mehrabi, Pacific Star Capital Management, Inc.

  • Lloyd Miller, Professor of Persian Music, University of Utah and Brigham Young University

  • Afshin Molavi, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation (Now a PARSA CF Board Member)

  • Haleh Motiey-Payandehjoo, Supervising Librarian, California State Library - Sutro

  • Houman Sarshar, Author and Director of Public Relations at the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History


Please note that in every case where a review committee member is affiliated with a prospective grantee organization, the member does not participate in the review of the group of proposals which includes that organization.


We extend our heartfelt thanks to our Grant Advisory Committee members and board members who provided us with invaluable input during the evaluation process! 


While innumerable hours were spent on the part of grant seekers to complete their applications, PARSA CF staff likewise dedicated months to familiarizing themselves with every organization and strove to promptly reply to each inquiry received. In addition, staff contacted each organization to review the specifics and parameters of the approved grant, offer the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback, and share ideas on ways to approach the next grant cycle


Grant Recipients


Congratulations to the hardworking teams behind PARSA CF's 2008 Norooz awardees! They include Promises Films, The Oriental Institute, The University of St. Andrews, Bay Area Iranian-American Voter Association, Smithsonian Institution, Khayam Persian School Foundation, Javane, Young Iranian-American Theater Company, The Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History, and The University of London.


Founded in 1996 and a second-time PARSA CF grantee, Promises Films is producing Global Moms: Iran, a feature-length documentary film, depicting Academy Award-nominated producer/director, Justine Shapiro, and her six-year-old son, Mateo, living with three families in Iran. The film compares the realities of raising families in Iran and in the US and how we have more similarities than differences.PARSA CF will fund Global Mom's multi-faceted national outreach program to accompany the film, which will include university workshops and a multimedia website that will address the needs of parents, educators and their partner organizations. To watch a preview of the film, click here: PARSA CF's support of Promises Films reflects our interest in broad impact and cultural understanding, both through broadcast media and educational programs.


For over 80 years, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has been a pioneer and innovator in exploring the world's earliest civilizations in the ancient Near East.  In 1933, the Institute discovered thousands of clay tablets and fragments during their archeological excavations of historic sites in Iran.  These ancient artifacts are on long-term loan from the government of Iran and were left in the Institute's care for purposes of translation, study and publication.  They make up the Persepolis Fortification Archive (PFA) and constitute a rich source for the research of the history, languages, art and society of the 2,500 year-old Achaemenid Persian Empire. The artificats are in danger of being seized and put up for public auction to compensate plaintiffs in a private lawsuit against the government of Iran.  The institute is operating under emergency conditions to prevent interruption of the preservation of these tablets and PARSA CF's continuing support will fund conservators in prompt delivery of digital photography, translation and editing. The University of Chicago is a second-time PARSA CF grantee and a model conservation effort.


The Department of Social Anthropology of the University of St. Andrews is the first anthropological unit in the world to have opened an official position in the anthropology of Iran. During the next 3 years, Dr. Khosronejad in collaboration with Professor Ali Ansari and other academic leaders at St. Andrews, will work on the creation of an Iranian documentary and anthropological film archive in the university, the establishment of a departmental library dedicated to anthropological research on Iran, a new doctorate degree in the anthropology of Iran, and a series of conferences and workshops on the subject, the first of which is "Visual Representations of Iran," to be held at the university this summer. The objective of these projects is to encourage collaboration between Iranian social researchers residing in Iran and academics outside the country. Through this grant, PARSA CF encourages broad support for Iranian Studies around the globe, providing new insights into Iranian culture.


The 2008 election provides an important opportunity to advance PARSA CF's mission of promoting civic participation and integration. Since its inception in 2003, the Bay Area Iranian-America Voter Association (BAIVOTER) has focused on voter registration, education and mobilization. They have conducted registration drives, arranged for Iranian-American groups to meet their elected representatives, and conducted educational events to encourage civic involvement in the community. Workshops, congressional debates, radio and television advertisements and interviews, and collaborative efforts with local and national nonprofits are highlights of their work. For the 2008 elections, they will undertake an aggressive campaign to drive the Iranian-American community to for online voter registration and education. BAIVOTER will use public service announcements by Persian community leaders to encourage website visitors to register and vote.


The Freer Gallery of Art, founded in 1923, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, established in 1987, together form the national museums of Asian Art at the Smithsonian Institution. The arts of ancient Iran comprise one of the most important collections of these museums.  In 2009, the gallery will feature Falnama: The Book of Omens, the first-ever exhibition devoted to an unusual group of rarely seen illustrated texts, produced during the reign of the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasb, on the subject of divination. These works, noted for their impressive scale and original compositions, were studied to foretell the future, much like many people use Tarot cards today. Drawing on imagery from the Old Testament, Islam and literary heroes, this collection provide insights into the concerns of common people five hundred years ago and highlights the rich and diverse artistic traditions of Iran. The exhibition will be accompanied by curriculum-based tours for schools, a lecture program for adults, and performing arts and films.


Founded in 1982, Khayam Persian School Foundation's mission is to promote Persian language and arts for Iranian-American children in Orange County.. Their core services provide language instruction in after-school classes three times a week. In the summer of 2008, KPSF will launch the Persian Summer Seminar, a three-day course in which teachers in the Irvine Unified School District are provided with materials and education about Persian history and culture. The collaborating organizations, such as California State University at Fullerton, have had prior experiences organizing such seminars for the Korean community, and they believe that the same can be implemented for the Iranian-American community. This model of collaboration with school districts holds great promise for national implementation and fits well into PARSA CF's strategy of scaling successful local programs.


Founded in 2005, Javane, Young Iranian-American Theater Company's mission is to foster cultural enrichment through theater and related art forms produced and performed by young Iranian-Americans. Javane's first production of "Shaparak Khanoom" by Bijan Mofid and directed by Mansour Taeed went on stage in 2005 in Berkeley and led to invitations throughout California. This was the first-ever production of this classic play performed by all U.S.-born Persian youth in the Persian language. PARSA CF will support Javane's 2008 plans to perform two new productions in conjunction with youth-based workshops and the eventual expansion of presenting its plays internationally. Javane's model provides a unique method for connecting young Iranian children born in the United States with their language and culture.


The Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History (CIJOH) was established in 1995 to record the contemporary history and culture of Iranian Jews. To date, they have collected over 2,500 documents and photographs, produced 25 video documentaries, and recorded over 100 interviews with leading figures of the Jewish Iranian community. CIJOH is now producing Of Strings and Skin: The Role of Iranian Jews in the Preservation, Development and Proliferation of Persian Music, a 150-200 page full-color, coffee table hardcover book. This cultural history survey will be embellished with an extensive collection of rare photographs and a multi-set CD comprising an anthology of music produced by Jewish Iranian masters of Persian classical music.


Founded in 1916, the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London is a premier U.K.-based center for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and a leading research institution. The Department of Music at SOAS is the largest center of ethnomusicology in Europe and for the past two years, the department has administered a research project for the Endangered Archives Program of the British Library. The department is digitizing a complete sound archive of the over 1,500 Golha programs broadcast on Iranian radio from 1956 through 1979. The aim is to make this searchable online archive available to the wider public in an accessible format to scholars, students and lovers of Persian culture.


Next Grant Cycle


PARSA CF is inviting nonprofits and student organizations to submit inquiry forms for its 2008 Mehregan grant cycle by June 12, 2008. Based on a positive review, applicants will be invited to submit full proposals, due on July 10, 2008.  For this grant cycle, PARSA CF is especially keen on identifying and supporting innovative change makers in the following areas: 


         Non-partisan projects focused on voter registration, education and outreach for this election year

         Development of leaders through student-run university organizations


For more information, please visit:


We also invite you to join PARSA CF's Grant Advisory Committee and help steer our grant making to best meet the needs of our community. To apply, please send a statement of interest along with your bio and area of expertise (arts/culture, leadership, civic engagement) to We look forward to receiving letters of inquiry for future grant cycles.  Together we can grow donations for all nonprofits!


Congratulations and Gratitude

On behalf of the PARSA CF team, we congratulate the 2008 Norooz grantees and thank members of the Grant Advisory Committee.  Wishing you and your families a joyful summer,


Mariam Hosseini, Grants Manager and Donor Services Coordinator


Grant Details


Focus Area

Organization and Project

Amount Granted



Arts and Culture


Promises Films: Global Moms: Iran


Berkeley, CA

Promises Films will conduct a national outreach program to accompany the release of Global Moms: Iran, which will include the creation of materials, workshops and a multimedia website that extend learning from the documentary into schools and universities. Beyond national television broadcast on PBS and theatrical release, the project's distribution plans include a comprehensive educational outreach campaign targeting early childhood educators, policy makers and university departments. By capturing the intimate relationships that producer/director Justine Shapiro and the Iranian families forge with one another, Global Moms: Iran aims to broaden the dialogue and perspective on Persian culture and Iran.


Arts and Culture


The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago: Persepolis Fortification Archive Project


Chicago, IL

The institute will preserve and publicize thousands of clay tablets, fragments and seals of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, the largest and most detailed collection of the empire's artifacts. Current litigation and the threat of seizure of these tablets compels the Oriental Institute to accelerate their efforts through the use of cutting edge technology to record the information contained in this extraordinary project and make it available to scholars worldwide before it may be lost. What will be learned is indispensable to the study of the history, languages and art of the empire at its zenith.


Arts and Culture


The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews: Iranian Anthropological Studies


St. Andrews, Scotland

The Department of Social Anthropology will create an Iranian documentary and film archive at the university, establish a library in the department dedicated to anthropological research on Iran, form a new doctorate degree in the anthropology of Iran, organize a series of annual conferences and workshops regarding the anthropology of Iran, the first of which will be "Visual Representations of Iran," to be held at the university in June 2008, and establish a new semiannual scholarly journal concerning the anthropology of Iran. The project will create a bridge between Iranian universities, research institutes and the University of St. Andrews.


Arts and Culture


The Smithsonian Institution: Falnama: The Book of Omens


Washington, DC

The institution will display this first-ever exhibition devoted to a group of rarely seen illustrated texts, produced during the reign of the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasb, on the subject of divination. Scheduled for 2009, the exhibition will be accompanied by curriculum-based tours for schools, a lecture program for adults, and performing arts and films. Presenting these unpublished works will counter cultural misconceptions through introducing visitors to some of the most extraordinary and little known works of art created in Iran during the sixteenth century.


Arts and Culture


Khayam Persian School Foundation: Persian Summer Seminar


Irvine, CA

The foundation will create a three-day seminar in which teachers in the Irvine Unified School District will be provided with materials and education about Persian history, culture and education with the aim of equipping teachers with the knowledge necessary to teach about Persian culture and to be more sensitive to the needs of Iranian-American students. They will advance this project through collaboration with the school district, Irvine Public School Foundation, Irvine Iranian Parents Association, and the Fullerton International Resources for Students and Teachers at Cal State University, Fullerton. These organizations have had prior experiences organizing such seminars for the Korean community, and will apply these best practices towards the Iranian-American community.


Arts and Culture


Javane, Young Iranian-American Theater Company: New 2008 theater production


Berkeley, CA

The company will produce two new productions in 2008, offer theater workshops for Iranian-American youth, and work towards presenting its productions to Persian-speaking communities internationally. These plays will include productions written by the actors themselves, who are American-born Iranian youth. Javane's theater workshops will also provide training opportunities for Iranian-American youth in the Bay Area and beyond.


Arts and Culture


The Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History: Of Strings and Skin


New York, NY

The center will produce Of Strings and Skin, a 150-200 page hardcover, full-color, coffee table book. This five-hundred year cultural history survey will be embellished with a collection of rare photographs, as well as a multi-set CD album comprising an anthology of the music written or performed by Jewish Iranian masters of Persian classical music.  The publication of this volume will serve as a valuable resource to future scholars, enthusiasts and admirers of Persian classical and popular music.


Arts and Culture

The School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London: Archiving of Golha programs


London, UK

In conjunction with the Endangered Archives Program of the British Library, the university will make available a digital archive of over 1,500 of the Golha programs, broadcast on Iranian radio from 1956 through 1979. In order to make the archive available in an accessible format to scholars, students and lovers of Persian culture, they will construct an online searchable database that will also include photographs and biographies of the Golha program participants.


Civic Engagement and Capacity Building


Bay Area Iranian-American Voter Association: Online voter education and registration


Burlingame, CA

For the 2008 election, the association will undertake an aggressive campaign to drive the Iranian-American community to for online voter registration and education, as well as conduct a get-out-the-vote campaign. Additionally, BAIVOTER will use public service announcements by Persian community leaders to encourage website visitors to register and vote. In collaboration with other Iranian-American organizations, BAIVOTER will create a unified, nonpartisan voter education and registration drive to serve the Iranian-American community in the United States.



... Payvand News - 05/09/08 ... --

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