Hussien and Randa Shousher: Engaging Others to Change Lives
When Hussien and Randa Mansour Shousher first contacted the Toledo Community Foundation, it was to establish a donor advised fund. But before long, the relationship turned into one of collaboration and community engagement that extended well beyond what they had originally envisioned.
As children of immigrant parents, philanthropy was a practice that both of the Shoushers learned in youth. “People wore out the carpet coming to our parents’ homes and offices for help,” recalled Hussien. “The cultural obligation was family first, community next, not only with financial support, but contributions of time and talent were also expected.”
Hussien, as the CEO of GEM Industrial and board member of several area philanthropic organizations, knew well that much could be accomplished when this generosity of spirit was amplified by a community effort. So, nearly a decade ago, he and a number of other Arab-Americans came together to create the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP), a national philanthropic organization funded by Arab-Americans. “Our philosophy was that giving together has more impact,” he said. “We believed that if we started it, other people would jump on board — and they have.
“At first, what we were doing was raising money annual to support grants to various 501(c)(3) organizations that would apply to CAAP for grants,” he said. “But to grow nationally, we saw we needed an endowment — and we couldn’t develop that alone.”
An experienced advisor at CAAP recommended the organizers work through community foundations to fund their philanthropic efforts via donor advised funds, and introduced the Shoushers to TCF. But their fund was only the beginning.
“TCF was a game-changer for us,” said Hussien. “TCF knows what’s ‘on the ground,’ and has connected us with others who share our goals, and resources we didn’t even know existed. Their team also has helped us be a lot more strategic.” Some of those connections included other community foundations throughout the country. Since their first encounter with TCF, the Shoushers try to include meetings with community foundation leadership in other cities when they travel. “Different communities have different needs, and different approaches to meeting those needs,” said Randa. “We learn something new from every visit.
“Today, donors don’t want to just write checks. They want to see impact, and to make a difference in people’s lives,” she added. “We don’t always know how to demonstrate the value of what we are doing. Through the Foundation, we’ve learned what donors need to see to inspire them to give.”
The Shoushers are applying principles they learned in collaboration with TCF and others to their work with various other charities, including HearCare Connection, a nonprofit in which Randa devotes her services as an audiologist to needy hard-of-hearing individuals, both in northwest Ohio and overseas. “We’ve gone overseas five times now to provide hearing care for refugee children,” said Randa. “With each trip, our work has grown. We had 13 audiologists and 14 volunteers on our last trip, nine of whom were from Toledo. “Kids that have hearing aids can then go to school,” Randa said. “The ultimate goal is to enable them to get an education and training so that they can make a business for themselves and have a future beyond the refugee camps.”
Here in northwest Ohio, HearCare Connection serves children and adults alike. “HearCare Connection was actually started by a student that Randa mentored,” Hussien explained, “and has grown over the past five years to include a number of local HearCare Connection groups across the country. Each of these local organizations must find ways to raise their own funds, and community foundations have been an important resource for them. To date, we have also received great financial support from local businesses and individuals.
“One of our goals is to reduce the distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and more toward ‘we,’ said Hussien. “Our efforts are funded by Arab-Americans, but our grants do not require ethnic ties to the Arab-American community. We’re ethnic in funding, but diverse in who gets the money — because when the wider community benefits, we benefit, too.”