If you want to go FAR, go TOGETHER.

It is time we redefine the word “philanthropist” and extend its meaning to include a more realistic picture of who gives in the U.S. The tools and rewards of organized philanthropy are no longer solely in the hands of wealthy donors and their families.  Philanthropy can be very exciting, especially when you can get together to give.

            Here at LCF, we are launching our first                             intergenerational Latina Giving Circle.

It is 2012 and philanthropists come from all walks of life. Collective giving models are growing by the day and their power reaches far beyond the size of their donation. Individuals no longer need to be wealthy to be philanthropic.  Even though women earn less money than men, they continue to give a higher percentage of their income and are leading the majority of the giving circles in the U.S.

According to Giving USA, in 2011 alone, total charitable giving approached $300 billion. Nearly $218 billion came from individuals.

So what is Philanthropy?

Philanthropy is the love of mankind that results in practical acts. Philanthropy is derived from the Greek words “philos”, which means loving and “anthropos” which means humankind. But philanthropy can be difficult to define, because it is profoundly individual and by definition voluntary. Today the term “philanthropy” refers to not only the act of giving, but also to an extensive network of private and public foundations, giving circles, and diverse individual donors that support numerous causes in order to improve the quality of life for people around the globe.

Informal giving and identity based philanthropy has a very long history in virtually every country, culture, and religion.  Native American communities have many traditions of giving rituals, and “Zakat” or “Giving” is one of the five pillars of Islam.  African American churches partnered with Freedmen’s Aid society to provide assistance to newly emancipated slaves.  Latinos traditionally give through family networks and Latino immigrants send billions of dollars home in remittances.

German Jews in Boston began the earliest formal identity based philanthropy called the Jewish Federation, with the initial goal of helping immigrant families adjust to life in the U.S. Today, the Jewish Federation is the second largest philanthropic network in the United States after the United Way of America.

The Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, which has more than 1,000 giving circle members, recently launched a campaign to build a national movement of giving circles across the U.S. – to develop leadership and change the prevailing notions of who can be a philanthropist. Following in these footsteps, LCF will launch its first Latina Giving Circle this month with a group of 16 committed Latina women from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

What is a Giving Circle?

Giving Circles are made up of a group of individuals who pool their money and collectively decide how to invest their dollars. But Giving Circles are much more than a group of people getting together to give.  They have become a place of empowerment. Circles vary in size, structure, and vision depending on who is leading it and why. Members span all ages, professions, ethnicities, and income levels. Members want to do more than write checks, they want to share and gain skills and knowledge as well as build new relationships and stonger community bonds.

Giving Circle members gain a better understanding of the issues, root causes, and complexities of making and sustaining change.  A recent report by the Community Investment organization “The Impacts of Giving Together” explains the power of community philanthropy for people who have traditionally been excluded and explains that collective giving models are a viable way to reinvent philanthropy to reflect the nation’s changing demographics. Giving Circle members build community power, leverage resources, and gain a deeper sense of civic responsibility.

“Giving circles are a way to democratize philanthropy by encouraging solutions from any member of a community.”

The next decade of philanthropy will be full of dynamic change and collective giving models are already increasing in size and popularity. It is time that we inspire and engage more Latino leaders to participate and benefit from joining and leading Giving Circles.

If you want to join a learning community made up of passionate women, join LCF’s inaugural Latina giving circle – It is where friendship, leadership, and commitment to the Latino community come full circle.

At a time when many Latino families have less, this is one way to do more.  Contact Sara Velten, svelten@sff.org today to join our existing circle or to start your own.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”-African Proverb

Hey mom, guess what, I mailed my ballot.

By Raquel F. Donoso

It all comes down to one day.  Tomorrow is THE day.  After months of campaigning Americans will each cast their vote to elect the next President of the United States, as well as make important decisions on state ballot initiatives and who will represent them on local school boards.  There is a tremendous amount of political capital at stake tomorrow. 

Yet, the question I am most interested in is to what degree will the Latino electorate-the so-called ‘sleeping giant’-get out and vote tomorrow. 

We know the numbers:

  • There are 52 million Latinos in the U.S, representing about 17% of the population.
  • Approximately 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote – approximately 45.6% of the Latino population.
  • Only 10.9 million Latinos are registered to vote (21%), and only 6.6 million voted in 2010 (12.7%).

The goal among organizations focused on increasing the Latino vote was to register 1M more voters to reach 12 million registered Latino voters. We’ll see if those efforts proved to be successful very soon.

This is a step in the right direction.  But we must do more to support new voters and collectively create a “culture of voting” in our communities.  Latinos are a young community. According to Pew Hispanic, 32% of eligible Hispanic voters are 18-29, compared to 19% among whites and 25% among blacks.

An astounding number of eligible to vote Latino youth turn 18 each month.  Where are they receiving their voting cues from?  How engaged are they in the voting process?  What needs to happen all year long to build more engaged voters?

My son turned 18 in October and texted me the following after completing his mail-in ballot,


“Hey mom, guess what?  I mailed my ballot!!  I’m voting!!! I’m contributing to the norm and responsibilities of the masses!! Woo-hoo!!!”  These are his direct words.

My parents were not born in this country, nor did they become citizens and have the right to vote until well into their adult lives.  In fact, my Dad has been a citizen for less than 10 years.  But, we discussed politics and power around the dinner table from a very young age. I went with my Dad to the picket line when he was on strike. I listened to his stories and understood what it meant to have the power to vote.  I even have vivid memories of making my first political scrapbook for the 1984 Mondale vs. Reagan election in 5th grade.

My parents created a “culture of voting” in my house and this is a tradition that I have extended to my son and in my family.

It is important for each and every one of us to do what we can to not just awaken the sleepy giant, but to thrust that giant into the political process, ensuring that diverse communities and their voices are represented at each and every level of governance in this country.

You may be wondering why we, a philanthropic organization, are even discussing voting and civic engagement.  The answer is simple-we know philanthropic support is not enough to tackle the challenges facing the Latino community.  We must increase our investments to strengthen Democracy and contribute to building the civic engagement infrastructure that is so needed in California and this nation.  

This year we have invested $10,000 in mini-grants to engage communities in discussions about the ballot initiatives and encourage Latino residents to vote. We have also travelled the state, meeting with leaders of Latino-based organizations to discuss issues and solution that affect our communities.  Our long-term focus is the -California Latino Agenda – a cross-sector initiative that will build regional coalitions, increase statewide advocacy campaigns, and increase resources to Latino-based organizations that are doing exceptional work in California.

In order to reach our ambitious goals we must all participate in the civic process, and not just during national elections, but all year round.  Voting means more than just casting a ballot, it means having the power to change our future.