The Asia Foundation: Improving Lives, Expanding Opportunities

TAF Logo introduces the latest in its “Get to know a Funder” series with a guide to one of the biggest Foundation’s in Asia,  The Asia Foundation.

The Asia Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization professing a commitment to the “development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region.” The Foundation supports Asian initiatives to improve governance, law, and civil society; women’s empowerment; economic reform and development; sustainable development and the environment; and international relations. Founded in 1954 The Foundation claims nearly 60 years of experience in Asia and works with private and public partners in the areas of leadership and institutional development, exchanges, and policy research.

The  Foundation aims to bring together local individuals, communities, and governments who are shaping Asia’s future. In 2006, it provided more than $53 million in program support and distributed 920,000 books and educational materials valued at $30 million throughout Asia.

The Asia Foundation’s Impact

Some of the ways the Asia Foundation are improving lives and expanding opportunities are detailed below:

  • Providing 48 million books to tens of thousands of schools, libraries, and universities.
  • Organizing nationwide election monitoring and voter education to ensure free and fair elections and strengthen democracy in virtually every Asian country that has undergone a democratic transition over the past six decades.
  • Educating more than a million migrant workers in over one thousand factories in China’s Pearl River Delta on their legal rights, safety, and personal health.
  • Protecting the basic rights of women through our work to counter human trafficking, fight gender-based violence, increase political participation, and strengthen legal systems.
  • Providing life-changing professional opportunities for newly emerging Asian leaders.
  • Reducing the human and financial toll of natural disasters by equipping government officials, businesses, and community leaders in disaster planning and response.
  • Creating jobs by improving the business climate and reducing red tape for local entrepreneurs and small businesses.
  • Reducing violence through peacebuilding efforts in some of the most entrenched conflict zones in the region, including Southern Thailand, Pakistan, Mindanao, and Sri Lanka.
  • Conducting ground-breaking empirical surveys to assess the quality and responsiveness of government services, patterns of corruption, and levels of violence, including the most comprehensive public opinion poll in Afghanistan.

The Asia Foundation addresses issues on both a country and regional level through a network of 18 offices around the world. Besides its headquarters in San Francisco and an office in Washington, D.C., it has a presence in the following Asian nations:

Funding for Organisations

The Asia Foundation undertakes grant making with organizations as a collaborative process of problem identification and strategic planning within our areas of programming interest. Their programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation. In addition, their Books for Asia and professional exchange programs are among the ways we encourage Asia’s continued development as a peaceful, just, and thriving region of the world. You should review the country programs highlights and current project lists to see if your project falls within the scope of the Foundation’s current programs.

The Foundation directs its support to activities that are within its current interests and are likely to have a wide effect. Most of the Foundation’s grants are made to organizations in Asia. The Foundation does not make grants to individuals nor to U.S-based organizations.

Before any request is made for a grant, the Foundation encourages prospective grantees to follow a three phase process:

  1. Review The Asia Foundation’s program areas and most recent Project List.
  2. Submit to the appropriate office a brief letter of inquiry to determine whether the Foundation’s present interests and funds permit consideration of the request. The letter of inquiry should include: a very brief introduction about the grant-seeking organization, a brief project description, and budget estimate.
  3. After receiving the letter, Foundation staff may reply informing the grant seeker as to whether or not the project fits within the The Asia Foundation’s interests. If it does, Foundation staff may ask the grant seeker to submit a formal proposal and/or raise questions for clarification of purposed project. There is no grant application form.

The Asia Foundation’s Programs

Governance and Law

The Asia Foundation’s Governance and Law programs support Asian initiatives to build more effective and responsive governance in areas that can expand liberty and justice, accelerate sustainable economic and social development, and reduce the incidence of violent subnational conflict. The Foundations does this through programming in:

  • Governance
    (local/municipal governance, counter corruption, central executive institutions, parliamentary development, constitutional development)
  • Law
    (strengthening and reform of formal and informal law and justice mechanisms, supporting efforts to increased community safety and security, particularly through community-oriented policing, and programs aimed specifically at empowering and protecting the rights of marginalized populations)
  • Conflict and Fragile Conditions
    (subnational conflict, peacebuilding, and civil military relations)
  • Elections
    (free and fair elections and democratic practice, open flows of information, and political parties)

Governance Project Examples:

Afghan Community Rehabilitation Unit (ACRU) – Skills and needs assessment to determine training needs of Independent Election Commission (IEC) staff. This assessment informed the implementation of capacity-building activities.

Creating a Robust and Transparent Electoral Process in Malaysia – Continuing longstanding efforts to support Malaysian democratization and governance. Strengthening the country’s electoral process by improving the quality and transparency of the electoral roll; increasing voters’ access to information on registration and polling processes; improving the efficiency and integrity of campaigning and election-day operations; and increasing the credibility of absentee voting procedures.

Economic Development

The Asia Foundation has a long history of supporting economic growth across Asia through both public and private channels. The Foundation’s approach is to empower local entrepreneurs with the tools, information, and resources they need to seize business opportunities and to work with government, local authorities, and civil society to improve business environments at the regional, national or local levels. The Foundation’s economic development program focuses on three core areas: business environments and policy reform; support to entrepreneurship, and regional economic cooperation, with special attention to women and environmental concerns.

Economic Development Project Examples:

Community-Based Clean Water Solutions – Support for the development of “Community-based Clean Water Solutions,” by selecting a section of a river and designing a future pilot project in the area with community-based clean water solutions and participation through multi-stakeholder consultations.

Aceh Economic Governance and Women’s Empowerment – Improving the business climate and increasing formal economic activity in Aceh. Advancing women’s civic participation. Engaging key officials and community leaders to support women’s civic participation and legal empowerment.

Women’s Empowerment

For more than half a century, The Asia Foundation has been a leader in helping women to realize their potential. The Foundation believes that investing in women fundamentally strengthens families and societies. Their Women’s Empowerment Program aims to develop women’s leadership, strengthens women’s organizations, increases women’s rights and ensures their personal security, and creates new political and economic opportunities for women across the Asia-Pacific region.

Women’s Empowerment Project Examples

Kabul University, Cisco Academy – Posted 50 articles and five commentaries on women and Islam in the Afghan context in Dari and Pashto on the Women and Islam Afghanistan page of the website,

Advancing Human Rights and Women’s Rights within an Islamic Framework across South Asia – Promoting gender equity and women’s rights within an Islamic framework in South Asia, as part of a regional program across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan through: developing a training curriculum for Muslim leaders on women’s human rights; fostering an exchange of ideas and discourse in South Asia on the relationship of Islam, human rights, and women’s rights; creating a locally appropriate training curriculum for religious leaders in South Asia to advance social justice for women; and expanding and strengthening regional networks of Muslim scholars and leaders working to advance women’s rights in the context of Islam.


The Asia Foundation’s Environment programs support Asian initiatives to ensure the sustainability of the environment and natural resources critical to Asia’s development and future well-being. The Asia Foundation works with a broad range of local stakeholders including civil society, government, and the private sector. They initiate high-impact programs to strengthen the institutions and processes through which environmental resources are managed, and to improve environmental policy.

Environment Project Examples:

Disaster Management Training Samoa 2011 – Implementing damage assessment training with the Samoa disaster management office for key national stakeholders to assist the development of a standardized format for use in assessments following natural disasters. Focusing on improved coordination among key response agencies and organizations in order for assessment information to feed directly into national emergency operations.

Engaging Stakeholders for Environmental Conservation – Engaging government, civil society, and industry to directly address the development of Mongolia’s mineral sector, ensuring that natural resource development is responsible and sustainable. Working to ensure that previously marginalized artisanal miners are included in the efforts to improve environmental conservation in Mongolia. Facilitating dialogue, learning, and cooperation between artisanal miners, local communities, and the government to sustainably manage natural resource development.

Regional Cooperation

Asia faces a number of non-traditional security challenges at the subnational level which are closely linked to domestic economic and political issues in different countries, but which have important ramifications beyond national borders: from environmental degradation, natural disasters, and trafficking-in-persons to maritime security, ethnic and religious conflict, and failed systems of governance. The Asia Foundation’s Regional Cooperation Program works to strengthen relations among Asian nations and their peoples in the effort to foster peace, stability, prosperity, and effective governance.

Regional Coorperation Project Examples

Asian Approaches to Development Cooperation Dialogue: Lessons for Development Effectiveness – Facilitating a series of dialogues among development cooperation experts and practitioners from Korea, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand to discuss and compare development assistance strategies employed by these newer Asian aid donors.

Congressional Fellowship Program in the United States – Promoting enhanced Thai-U.S. relations by supporting an officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Thailand) to complete a Congressional Fellows program in Washington, D.C.

Books for Asia

Books change lives. They crackle with ideas and help shape people’s imaginations, critical thinking skills, and their understanding of the world and the many opportunities within it. Books for Asia puts one million brand-new books into the hands of students, educators, and local and national leaders in 19 countries annually. The Asia Foundation empowers future and current leaders with information because we know that an educated population is better equipped to fight poverty, disease, injustice, and instability.

Books for Asia Project Examples:

Mobile Libraries for Tsunami-Affected Communities – Establish mobile libraries with a selection of books in all three languages, audio visual equipment and other resources for use by tsunami-affected communities. Hambantota Pradeshiya Sabha; Hambantota Urban Council; Hikkaduwa Pradeshiya Sabha; Kattankudy Urban Council; Thirukkovil Pradeshiya Sabha.

Books for Asia India – Acquisition and distribution of 25,271 books to schools and institutions of higher education in India’s Southern States: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu.


Through its Asian American Exchange unit, The Asia Foundation seeks to encourage greater understanding between Asians and Americans with the ultimate aim of contributing towards strengthened U.S.-Asia relations. Over more than five decades, Foundation grants have provided thousands of participants with opportunities to exchange views and gain direct experience with regions other than their own.

Exchanges Project Examples:

Freeman Fellows Program – The Freeman Fellows program promotes dialogue between emerging leaders from America and Southeast Asia through reciprocal study tours focused on current issues in public policy. In 2005, a group of Freeman Fellows visited Singapore and received briefings by academics from the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and also met with Singapore’s President Mr. S R Nathan.

Trainings and Study Visits – The Asia Foundation and the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly sponsored three Director-level officials from the Afghanistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attend the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s Senior Management Program in June-July 2008. Three officials from the Afghanistan Government also attended the same program the previous year. In July 2008, a delegation of Vietnam officials from the Office of the National Assembly, the Office of the President, the Office of the Government, and the Office of the Party Central Committee visited Singapore to learn about the Singapore Government’s processes of institutional reform, policy coordination, and personnel management and development.

Development and Effectiveness

The contemporary aid ecosystem is complex, and emerging donors, civil society, and the private sector are fostering new thinking on development effectiveness. Within this arena, The Asia Foundation is increasingly recognized for advancing knowledge around some of the most important and challenging aspects of development. A respected resource for locally-driven, context-specific, and flexible approaches to project implementation, the Foundation brings together traditional and emerging Asian donors to share their perspectives and ideas about the changing dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region and international development cooperation.

Development and Effectiveness Project Example:

International Development Assistance Workshop and Policy Report – Bilateral development cooperation workshop hosted in Seoul, providing an opportunity for a small group of American and South Korean specialists and government officials to discuss in-depth prospects for bilateral development cooperation.

Washington DC

The Asia Foundation’s office in Washington organizes substantive dialogues with key audiences on policy issues facing the Asia-Pacific. Roundtables, forums, lectures, and dialogues provide policymakers, non-governmental leaders, journalists, and scholars with opportunities to hear contemporary views from Asia. With field offices throughout Asia, the Foundation has extraordinary access to current and emerging leaders and to staff experts in the field, who contribute valuable perspectives on developments and dynamics affecting the region.

Washington DC Project Examples:

Accessing Justice in Afghanistan – A breakfast discussion with the program manager in The Asia Foundation’s Afghanistan office, sharing insights on the current situation facing Afghan women and how engaging men can improve social justice for women.

Bangladesh Women Members of Parliament Study Program – A 10-day observation program as part of The Asia Foundation’s Promoting Democratic Institutions and Practices program in Bangladesh, which involved leadership training, witnessing hearings and meeting with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, visiting Washington area NGO leaders focusing on women’s issues, and meeting with the Maryland state legislature’s Women’s Caucus.

Contact the Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation

465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223

Have you or your organisation worked with the Asia Foundation? Do you have any questions about collaborating with the Foundation? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Avatar sikandar azam says

    We are running an NGO in Pakistan. We need your help in respect to our new project,”A SCHOOL FOR STREET CHILDREN”. If your organization is willing to support us financially or in terms of books supply please inform us. Our contact mail is

  2. Avatar Nargis Jabeen Percy says

    Can we please send our application for further enhance our services to the needy people of this area? On hearing from you we shall contact you further.

    With best wishes for your kind and generous Organization of Asia Foundation for a more and great success in your very valued services.

    Nargis Jabeen and Percy.

  3. Avatar Nargis Jabeen Percy says

    The “Organization of PASSIO DEI”, is a non-government Organization in the Multan Division of South Punjab, Pakistan, want to do all possible efforts to offer our humble and dedicated services to SPECIAL CHILDREN WHO ARE MENTALLY RETARDED and take proper care of Elderly and old people in a HOME FOR THE AGED while improving education and health services in as many particular category of adult and children and work on YOUTH and JUVENILE FORMATION to elevate the status of future generation and provide training and small earning opportunities of livelihood to push back POVERTY and to bring more happy and feasible opportunities to man, woman and everyone without any difference of cast, color or creed.

    Your kind heed to our call by your honored organization / institution will be a very pleasing and encouraging voice in the hot sand dunes of Pakistan.

    Nargis Jabeen Percy and Percy Mariathas Anthony.

  4. Dear Sir/Madam,

    My organization Fair Trade Group Nepal (FTG Nepal) is the consortium of Fair Trade Organisations (FTOs) in Nepal. Legally registered in 1996 as a not for profit and non trading non-governmental organization, it aims to uplift the socioeconomic status of the marginalised and underprivileged artisans and handicraft and agro products producers of the country. It is a member of World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) global, and country coordinating office for WFTO -Asia. It envisions to improve the quality of life of low income groups of people through Fair Trade. Presently, it has 18 Fair Trading organisations as members who are providing direct benefits to more than 8,000 producers (80% are women) and indirect benefits to more than 40,000 people.

    It advocates and lobbies for the formulation and implementation of Fair Trade frineldy policy in the country; enhnaces and builds the capacity of its members and other likeminded organisations; builds plaforms for creating marketing opportunities at national and international levels; conducts researches and studies on related topics and issues for the development and enhancement of the sector; create enterpreneurship opportunities for potential entrepreneurs; help producers find markets; and it monitors Fair Trade organizations and other likeminded organisations against Fair Trade Standards.

    Through our and our members’ efforts, many marginalised and underprivileged producers and artisans have become entrepreneurs providing employment opportunities to thousands of rural and urban youths.

    We look forward to your interest and support to work with us to uplift the socioeconomic status of thousand of unreached population of this country.

    Ghanshyam Shrestha
    Executive Director
    Fair Trade Group Nepal

  5. Avatar Imran Nadeem says

    Dear Sir/Madam
    We running this NGO since 1998 in Skardu Pakistan in the field of Education, Health and Women Empowerment in Baltistan. uptil no we have established 06 Nos schools in far-flung areas where government education facilities not available. we have also established dispensary in Shigar valley and a vocational training center for women. Baltistan region of Pakistan remained backward due to non inclusion of the region in the main stream of the country. more than 70% of the entire population living under the below the poverty line. M. Ibrahim Memorial Society (MIMS) is looking forward to work on development of the area specially in Education, Health and women empowerment

    sincerely yours
    Imran Nadeem
    Skardu Pakistan

  6. Avatar shamantha D.S says

    We are a group in to Development Media working with people of Karnataka, India. Our main aim is to empower people with knowledge. We adopt both print and broadcast media, other forms of communications etc to reach out people. Currently, we are reaching community through Community radio, Sarathi Jhalak…We want to reach out larger section of people through mainstream media like films, TV etc. We have been initiating several innovative concepts in our regional print and radio, audio medium… Do we have any oppertunity to explore funds for our awareness creating activities in your funding agency? Empowering people with knowldge is a challenge , because of its intangibility…Craeting awareness is a challenge, designing modules is more demanding and finally sourciong funds for intangible work is very hard….

  7. Avatar Desterlyn Allen says

    Dear Sir/Madam:

    The National Adult Education Association of Liberia(NAEAL) is a local NGO operation in Liberia. NAEAL focuses on Adult Education and women empowerment. looking at the situation in our country with the literacy rate of our population being over 80%, We seek any assistance the Foundation can render us in trying to minimize the level of illiteracy so as to enable women fully participate in the decision making process.
    Waiting for your considerable response.

    Desterlyn Allen

    Executive Director(NAEAL

  8. Dear Sir/Madam,
    Greeting From Anmol!
    We running this NGO since 2005 to till date in different field like Educational, Vocational Training (Computer,Tailoring, and Embroidery) Person with Disability, Family Planning , Health (Medical & Dental). We are also providing education for drop out girls from school. All these activities run by good co-operation of donors . Donors helping this NGO only kinds , aid and appliances not helping financial. We are providing better and quality education for daily earner , and weaker section children. Near about 272 children getting education from this NGO. In this area no any school , only this NGO working in this area .Due to shortage of funds we are facing now lots of problems like staff salary, building of rent, electricity bill, telephone bill and other expensive . So we are requesting to you kindly help this NGO in critical position. We are very grateful to you. I hope u will help this NGO.Please give me reply . We are waiting for reply.If you have project related this field please inform this NGO.

    Thanks & Best Regards

    Bipin Kumar
    Anmol Educational And Social Welfare Society
    D-103, Kharak Satbari South Delhi New Delhi-74

  9. We are a group of graduates from the University for Development Studies in Ghana who have formed a Community-based Organization which seeks to bring develop rural communities through needs assessment and developing appropriate development strategies to suite rural situations.We are community development workers by training and have come out with a proposal on livelihood sustainability.By the requirement of the social welfare office in Ghana,we must operate for a period of 3 months after which an assessment will be made and the Organization registered.We want to start the 3 month operation on our first project in the form of a pilot and need support.we therefore want to know if we could get some support to enable us achieve our goal of improving the livelihood sustainability of farmer/agro processing (shea butter extraction) occupational groups.