This article is the first in a series of articles which NPQ, in partnership with Hispanics in Philanthropy, will publish in the coming weeks. The series highlights the voices of Latinx leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to share their experiences on a range of economic justice issues that affect Latinx communities.
At Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), when we talk about the concept of democratizing philanthropy, we mean to redefine who we perceive as donors, but also as leaders. As my colleague, Eusebio Díaz, pointed out in “Where are the Latinos in philanthropy?”,“ Latinos [sic] currently occupy only one percent of foundation CEO positions and hold only 9.3 percent of program officer positions. “Philanthropy has seriously missed the mark in ensuring that people from under-represented communities bring their experiences to leadership and governance roles.
Leaders of nonprofit Latinx must also tackle only one percent of philanthropic dollars goes to Latinx nonprofits. With 60.5 million Latinxes in the United States, it is critical that we take seats at the tables of nonprofits and institutions whose policies, funding, and direct services will impact the Latinx community for decades to come.
The impact of this under-representation is deeply felt. Take the COVID-19 pandemic. A March 2021 report from Center for American Progress found that Latinx people were “1.7 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their non-[Latinx] white counterparts, as well as 4.1 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 and 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19. “
Unemployment data also shows that Latinx workers have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn induced by the pandemic. In January 2021, the unemployment rate for white women was 2.4 percentage points higher than before the pandemic; for white men, it was 2.7 percentage points higher. In contrast, Latinas saw their unemployment rates rise 3.9 percentage points; Latinos faced unemployment rates 4.5 percentage points higher.
Similar statistics can be cited which show that Latinxes face higher rates of food insecurity and housing instability. And these trends, of course, started long before the pandemic. According to U.S census data, 2019, 73.3% of Whites lived in property owned by their family. In contrast, Latinx’s home ownership rate in 2019 was 47.5%.
The challenges are enormous. While today I’m president of a national philanthropic organization, early in my career, I remember all the effort I put into pitching my jobs. I was focused on actively learning from my peers and the challenge of approaching projects with curiosity. I was proud to share my ideas, but like many young Latinx professionals, I was keenly aware of the inherent biases that stood in the way of my best efforts. There have been so many instances at work where I was the only Latina present, and although I try to intend to change that in the spaces I occupy now, there is still a representation gap of those who work in philanthropy and nonprofit organizations.
This past year has taught us how important it is to pause, reflect and listen to each other. Our love and work for humanity should be rooted in abundance, in the recognition that there is much to be learned from data. and lived experiences. Our network at HIP, or collective corazon [heart] as we call it, is imbued with a wealth of knowledge on how to meet the challenges and celebrate the triumphs of our Latinx communities. I have seen it firsthand from our team at HIP to our recipient partners. This is why we have chosen to engage part of our mission at HIP to strengthen Latinx leadership, while also focusing on Latinx influence and fairness.
To build Latinx Core Leadership has become one of the many vehicles we encourage to cultivate a diverse workplace. Emerging Latinx leaders are expected to not only advocate for their communities, but to effect change within their industry. We need to listen directly to emerging Latinx leaders.
Today, with over 18 percent of residents in the United States being Latinxes, we need to be especially persistent in our advocacy for representation and resources. There is a brilliant range of Latinx voices. They are protecting businesses from collapse during the pandemic due to systemic inequalities across the financial services industry that overlook or diminish the contributions of Latinx entrepreneurs. They are launching campaigns to urge lawmakers to rethink how we constrain small business growth with the local economy. They take matters into their own hands by recognizing the power of the community to advance the rights of migrant women and children. Their work takes us beyond the binaries of language, gender, and ableism that have limited our reach.
At Hispanics in Philanthropy, we’re good at mobilizing resources, but we know it’s from the leaders on the ground that advancements in economic justice typically happen. One of the tools we use to support these leaders is our Líderes scholarship program, which supports mid-career Latinx leaders working in philanthropy and nonprofit organizations.
Líderes Fellows not only defend their communities, but advance change more broadly. Their ability to lead with a moral imperative to address inequalities is no small feat. Beyond supporting professional growth and networking, we deliberately, in our holistic healing approach, create a curriculum rooted in restorative practices through social justice and racial equity. These somatic healing practices provide techniques to heal trauma or physical tension in your body so that these fellow Líderes have the freedom to navigate complicated and mostly white spaces like themselves genuine and healed. At the end of the fellowship, the Líderes become a community that supports each other to navigate and promote change, and even healing, within the systems in which they work and occupy.
The stories these leaders tell are inspiring and as diverse as the multiple Latinx communities from which they come. In this series, you will hear from leaders who organize street vendors and the many challenges Latinx small business owners face in running their businesses. You will also hear about the many struggles in the area of immigrant justice and political organization. And you’ll hear from one of our own staff. During the crisis, we too at HIP had to change. We’ve never seen ourselves as impact investors before, but we’re learning how to do it, community by community and business by business.
The key is to move forward by listening. By taking strategic benchmarks directly from the very people who have navigated the many systems of oppression facing underserved communities, we move closer to equity. This means centering a diversity of perspectives within our Latinx communities to develop culturally focused community programs, leadership and power building, housing, economic security, and educational security. It also means learning directly from community leaders about the changing demographics of migrant communities and how policies, climate change and gender-based violence have transformed needs in real time. More importantly, it means supporting a movement of Latinx advocates that challenges us to do better.
In the midst of COVID-19, we have all been challenged to reconsider our practices and re-commit to the principles of social justice in everything we do. There are a lot of things that remain uncertain, but there are a few things we do know. For example, a lesson that has resurfaced over the past year is that in order to disrupt, reinvent, and rebuild, we need to build systems that listen to those with lived experience.
So, as you read the stories in this series, I encourage you to listen carefully to these voices. And as you do, you might at least come across innovative solutions that address some of the many issues that not only the Latinx community, but society as a whole, are currently facing. If, at the base, you start with this careful attention, I’m sure you can build from there.