Money Matters for Latinos and the Future of the U.S.

Thinking about immigrants, what are three things that come to mind about Latinos in the U.S.?

A call for a national Latino agenda

President Obama spoke and moved on immigration late last year. In our nation’s capital, immigration reform is the gift that keeps on giving. We can extend our lens backwards and forward and the issue remains highly contested. Now Congress has become Republican-led. Democrats and Republicans will be battling immigration reform, and whether 5 million undocumented migrants should have a reprieve from imminent deportation, or be able to access healthcare benefits.

Thinking about immigrants, what are three common things that come to mind to people about Latinos in the U.S.? 

Here they are:

(1)  The Latino vote

(2)  An undereducated population suffering from obesity and high blood pressure, and

(3)  The largest minority group in the nation

Latinos and money

Latinos represent 17 percent of the population –47 million strong. Forty seven million today –that’s like being the third largest Latino nation in the Americas, behind Brazil and Mexico. And let’s not forget that Latinos will represent 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050.

It is time to awaken to another aspect of Latino life in the U.S. The public discourse is missing an important point: Philanthropy. Why does this matter? This matters because U.S. foundations only give 1.3 percent of their total annual granting dollars to Latino-led and Latino serving organizations. Considering demographic trends, that’s the definition of underinvestment.   We can’t afford to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect, or even more worrisome, neglect positive social change. This is bad math for the nation if we are interested in cultivating future innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders to remain vital and sustainable as an economy. We can’t ignore the subject of money unless we don’t mind kicking ourselves in just a few short decades from now for not seeing the big picture in time to act.

In the U.S. there is a great pool of potential philanthropists to tap into and cultivate: Latinos –47 million of them. History tells us that Latinos are generous, donating to their churches and sending billions of dollars to their families in their countries of origin. Yet, those of us who work on and study philanthropy have grappled with the subject of Latino giving and struggled to identify and practice effective ways to involve Latinos in nonprofits as donors, whom are still underrepresented in this sphere. But that is changing as Latino Giving Circles and funds are popping up and growing across the country, strategizing and donating to causes of relevance to them, including education, health and wellness, and leadership development.

Latino representation and leadership

To date, annual Latino purchasing power is 1.3 trillion dollars, and the lion share of small business growth in the country is generated by Latinos. Marketing companies continually develop strategies to capture Latino dollars. Yet, Latinos are underrepresented in boards and in high-level leadership positions at nonprofit and for profit organizations; their voices obscured by their absence at the table –across the country. Increased board and executive representation are vehicles to expand diversity while stimulating and cultivating Latino leadership, earning and giving. It isn’t fair game to chase Latinos as consumers while undermining their prosperity.

Next page: A call for a national Latino agenda

Mara Perez
Mara Perez
Mara Perez, Ph.D. As Founder and Principal of Mara Perez, Fund Development and Planning Services, Mara provides fundraising and strategic planning services to non-profits. Mara has helped over seventy organizations obtain funding, design innovative work strategies, and execute growth plans. Mara holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Community service includes: 2010-present Board Member of Marin General Hospital; 2002-2012 Board Member Canal Alliance, twice Board President; 2005 Spirit of Marin Award, Business Person of the Year; Coro Leadership Community Fellow. She has published articles about immigration, social change, and fundraising. Born in Argentina, Mara resides in California.

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