Latino's Stand Ready to Give, Why are They being Overlooked?
"Outlook: Don't Discount Diverse Donors"
OpEd Currents Magazine March/April 2017
It's hard not to see the recent U.S. presidential election, as well as the Brexit referendum, as a powerful condemnation of diversity and inclusion efforts. Treating minorities with respect and addressing their concerns were dismissed as political correctness run amok. The vilification of people of certain races and ethnicities, a religion, and immigration status made the "Not Welcome Here" sign hard to miss.
Instead of retreating, we in development should redouble our efforts to be inclusive. That means doing more than simply hoping we're not leaving money on the table: We need to actually figure out which donor groups we're overlooking and why. Let's start with the Latino population.
Numbers don't lieWall or no wall, by 2050 some 106 million Latinos are projected to be in the U.S. In 2015, Latinos had a collective purchasing power of $1.3 trillion—which is larger than the GDP of some countries—and that figure, predicts the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth, will reach $1.7 trillion by 2020.
Yet if you assess the philanthropic landscape today, you'd be challenged to find Latinos in major staff roles, on nonprofit boards, or as major donors. As a Latino and development officer for 32 years, I've observed a range of reasons nonprofits overlook Latino communities. The main one: Because our communities have struggled with poverty and have indeed been recipients of charity, the assumption that we cannot give prevails.
This is simply not true.
Most people outside of Latino communities don't realize our propensity and capacity to give. Part of the problem is that Latinos are severely underrepresented in leadership and development positions at nonprofits and universities. CASE's own 2016 Compensation Survey found that just 2.5 percent of advancement professionals identified as Hispanic. Prior to my arrival at institutions where I've worked, little prospect research was being conducted into the wealth and major gifts potential of Latinos. This is probably true of most nonprofits.
What amazes me in my work with Latino major donors is how I am often the first development officer to approach them. Many attended major universities, have started and sold companies, risen to CEO positions—all of this information is publicly available. Yet, their phones aren't ringing. One Mexican-American philanthropist shared his theory: "I owe my university, I love my university, but I am not sure I fit its demographic for a donor."
Dig deeperThe prescription here for donor diversity is straightforward: Watch for your own cultural bias, learn about where Latinos are gaining wealth, and get to know the Latinos in your databases. In other words, be intentional.
Start with research. Did you know that for the past 15 years Latino entrepreneurship has outpaced the business creation rate of other groups? Immigrants own 29 percent of Latino firms and 42 percent of those businesses generate more than $1 million in revenue annually. I've directed prospect research into Latino capacity for major giving and acted upon that information, raising high six- and seven-figure gifts from donors of Latin descent.
Use focus groups and surveys to find out who the Latinos in your alumni database are, what they care about, and what makes them give. Access the resources of groups that specialize in Latino outreach, such as the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and Hispanics in Philanthropy.
Make sure your staff is culturally competent and understands that Latino communities are not monolithic. The customs and traditions vary, so appeals can't be one-size-fits-all.
Language is important. Yes, in some cases, having Spanish-speaking staff who share the donor's culture and native land helps. But pay attention to your audience. A nonprofit seeking to target Mexican- Americans sent out a newsletter written in Spanish—Argentine Spanish. Big mistake.
So, take a closer look at your Latino constituents. You will find major donors you didn't know were there: People who cry like babies when singing the alma mater and are so grateful to the university that helped give them a good life. Do your research, study the cultures, and ask us to support the institutions we love.
Published in Currents Magazine's March/April 2017 Issue