Clara Yoon, fearless fundraiser

Supporting gifted leaders

Both my husband and I are one-and-a-half generation Korean-Americans living in New York City. We have 21-year-old son. He is a good-looking, smart kid, and he was straight A student! Seven years ago, I knew something was wrong with my child when he started getting Bs on his report card. Then my son came out as male. You see, we believed we were raising a daughter for 14 years. But, in fact, his heart, mind, and spirit had always been of a boy, and he couldn’t hide that from us, or anyone, any longer. It took me and my husband about a year to come around and accept our son’s gender. I couldn't bear to think of my life without him or seeing him so unhappy. Our decision to support his transition helped him achieve a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.

In 2012 I founded the API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC. It’s a unique initiative that supports LGBTQ individuals and families of Asian heritage, addressing language- and culture-specific needs of the API community and striving to build a bridge between generations and different cultural experiences. As I started to learn more about the nonprofit space, I soon realized that it would take serious funding to create meaningful and effective programs.

While I had donated to charity in the past, asking was another story… Just the thought of it gave me anxiety. Between 2012 and 2013, I was approached by the Dari Project, as well as activists in Korea, who wanted my help raising money for their work. Despite my fear, I stepped up and started making “the ask”. To my surprise, I realized that I actually enjoyed the process, and I wanted more! In my quest to become a better fundraiser, someone introduced me to a staff member of Stonewall Community Foundation. I shared my story and explained my desire to improve my fundraising skills, and they helped me enroll in a Stonewall-sponsored fundraising training. Through that program, I learned the fundamentals, practiced advanced techniques, and shed the last bits of fear I had. Now, I’m unstoppable.

In just a short time, I raised $2,500 to create a safe space for at-risk LGBTQ youth in Korea; close to $10,000 in The Center’s Cycle for the Cause to support their HIV/AIDS programming; more than $10,000 to organize the first Korean American LGBTQ seminar through Give Out Day; and a few thousand more to support a variety of programs, from coming out workshops to inclusive Full Moon Festivals.

I enjoy the work I do and am certainly proud to be in service to incredible causes. Above all, though, I am grateful for the community members, parents, friends, colleagues, and strangers who respond to my calls for action.

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