Fundraising from the Hispanic population
Quick quiz: Which name is most important to the future of philanthropy?
Hispanics make up 37% of California’s residents and are expected to be the state’s majority by 2042. The social landscape of western states (especially Texas) and specific urban areas (especially New York City) across the country will be similarly reshaped.
The impact of this development is intensified when applied to the social sector because the immigrant inflow of this population means a disproportionate percentage of this growth will need social services. At the same time that the need will be rising, the potential for giving will also be increasing: we are already seeing the emergence of second generation Latinos who were the first in their family to be college educated and attain high paying professional jobs.
What this means is that the social sector is going to be shaped on all fronts by how Hispanics relate to the nonprofit community. And there is one particular issue that can’t be avoided much longer.
It is this: What is the future of white led nonprofits in an increasingly Hispanic society? While philanthropy blogs like to dispute au courant trends like venture philanthropy and impact measurement, this question is one that has been relatively unaddressed.
Nationally, Hispanics now hold only 3% of nonprofit board seats, despite making up over 15% of the population. From my own informal surveys, the disparity between board representation and local population is far greater here in Northern California, and I suspect that is true in other high density Hispanic communities as well. This disparity is getting worse and there are only a few small initiatives (see below) that are consciously trying to address it.
I don’t think this gap is going to be sustainable. Even now, when I receive an appeal from an NPO that claims to be “grassroots” and “represent the community,” I will glance at the list of the board and, in many cases, experience a disconnect between reality and rhetoric. The Hispanic community of the future -- newly emboldened politically and sensitive to the danger of non-representative bodies (see immigration in Arizona) -- will not tolerate it if agencies claim to speak for them but don’t reflect them in their leadership.
In the vast majority of cases, the disparity isn’t an issue of conscious intent. Most white executive directors want to have more Hispanics on the board, but lack access to networks in the community. Some of this no doubt is due to the fact that they themselves are white and come from outside the communities they serve. Whether they have the cultural competency – the average executive director in my region is overwhelmingly white women in their 50s – is a question I cannot answer but does need to be raised.
Features of the Hispanic community also make for a poor fit with the existing nonprofit models. I spoke with Ron Gonzales, former mayor of San Jose and currently CEO of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, and he believes that many Hispanics need more education about the importance of nonprofits to their community and to be made aware of the opportunities to serve. His organization has piloted the Latino Board Leadership Academy to train professionals on assuming philanthropic leadership roles.
The Hispanic Foundation does make some grants, as does its sister foundations Hispanics in Philanthropy and the Latino Community Foundation. However, the collective amounts given are very small. Even more significantly, the funds are almost entirely raised from corporations and other larger and primarily white led foundations (like Packard and Hewlett). None of these foundations, in my opinion, have figured out how to mobilize local Hispanic giving to local NPOs.
This is not to say that the Hispanic community gives little. For instance, according to the most recent study of Silicon Valley giving by race, Hispanics give 3.9% of their annual household to “charity” – compared to 3.8% for whites and an embarrassing 1.8% for my own Asian American community. Nationally, 63% of Hispanic households give to charity, a figure only somewhat under national averages.
What is strikingly different is how and to what Hispanics give. According to surveys, much of their giving goes to the local church and “informal” donations to family and friends. Another huge and rapidly expanding type of charity is remittances to needier relatives back in their country of origin. The best data we have on this issue goes back to the 2006. This type of giving rose from $15B in 2001 to $45B in 2006. To put this huge amount in perspective, the United States government in 2005 only gave $1.8B in aid to Latin America.
Looked at it from this angle, Hispanics don’t give very much to local nonprofits because they are propping up US aid to an entire part of the world.
Do local nonprofits try to compete for those foreign aid dollars? Do they compete with the local Catholic churches that also are a key recipient? Can a local NPO focused on getting kids to college make the case to a local Hispanic businessman that they would do a better job at stewarding his dollars than if he just gave the money to the kid next door’s college savings fund? Can a 50 year old white ED who went to Berkeley, who now lives in the suburbs, and who doesn’t speak Spanish credibly recruit board members from the community?
I don’t have the answers, but I believe these are questions that nonprofit leaders in my state and many others must face in the next decade. I would be very interested to hear from others in the field who have tried to tackle this issue in creative ways.
What are you doing to reach this key audience?