6 Reasons Latino Non-Profits Should Engage in Advocacy

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6 Reasons Latino Non-Profits Should Engage in Advocacy

By: Guillermo Mayer, CEO, Public Advocates

When advocacy for social change is part of your organization’s mission you don’t often pull back and ask why engaging in advocacy is so critical. We almost take it as a given. But many small Latino-based non-profits stay clear of advocacy, unaware of the impact they could unleash if they embraced it. Recently, I was asked to talk about why such organizations should be engage in advocacy, including lobbying. Here are 6 reasons why:

1: BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO. As a non-profit, you can engage in advocacy, including lobbying, within certain limits. Actually, those limits are so reasonable that you have to try very hard to exceed them. So engage in advocacy and do it often! Visit the Alliance for Justice website to learn about the limits.

2: BECAUSE COMPLEX PROBLEMS MUST BE SOLVED UPSTREAM.  The underlying causes of problems that small Latino non-profits often address have very deep roots. Take for example the problem of overcrowded classrooms or the shortage of academic counselors at a particular school. These problems are rarely the result of poor decisions by the school principal. More often, they’re the result of bad structural decisions or inaction by policy makers at the district or state levels who fail to provide schools with the resources our schools need.  While we must treat the symptoms of problems when they appear, we must also find solutions that address the problems where they originate. Advocacy allows you to do that.

3: BECAUSE YOU’RE NEVER TOO SMALL TO HAVE AN IMPACT.  Many small Latino-based non-profits with few staff members struggle to engage in policy advocacy. It just feels like it’s just too much work to take on with limited resources. Those who succeed are strategic about the battles they pick and how they fight – focusing on the issues they know best and joining coalitions or forming partnerships with policy groups they trust. A word of caution here – before you link arms with other groups make sure you are truly an equal partner, with a clear say in setting the policy agenda you’re committing to, and that your voice that is valued and respected.  Some groups will use others to advance a pre-determined agenda and they’ll get lots of mileage from that fact that you’re an authentic community-based group. Here’s an easy rule of thumb: if you are being asked to support a policy position, and you were not given the opportunity to give input or shape the position beforehand,   a power imbalance exists.

4: BECAUSE THERE IS A RECORD NUMBER OF LATINO ELECTED OFFICIALS AT ALL LEVELS IN CALIFORNIA TODAY AND THEY NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU. Unfortunately, the rise of Latino elected officials has not been matched by a parallel rise in the number of Latino-based advocacy organizations. Elected officials can’t and won’t do it alone. Elections all by themselves don’t solve problems. It’s the day-to-day work that follows that makes it possible to tackle them. Many Latino elected officials want to do the right thing, but they’re playing by the rules of a system they inherited. To take political risks, they need us to have their backs. They need organizations like ours to help them make the case. And if they’re unwilling to take such risks, then we must hold them accountable. In the end, voting is to individuals what advocacy is to groups. Without the latter, we cannot realize promise of the growing Latino vote.

5: BECAUSE IF YOU STICK WITH IT OVER TIME YOU WILL WIN BIG. Public Advocates began as a law firm in the 1970s that relied primarily on litigation to make change. But as the courts began to become more conservative, and it became more difficult to win relief from the courts, we began to turn more and more to policy advocacy. Eventually, we realized we could win as much, and often more that way. Just to give you one example: last year, Public Advocates worked in two advocacy coalitions—the SB 535 Coalition and Sustainable Communities for All—to win more than $120 million dollars in clean air and clean energy investments for disadvantaged communities across the state. That victory grew to $500 million this year. None of us could have won this on our own. We had to join forces and fight for several years for this policy win. The dividends from that advocacy will only continue to grow in future years.

6: LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Because advocacy by small Latino non-profits is what scares the hell out of those who wish to put the brakes on the progress we as Latinos are making in California. Just look at the breakthroughs we’ve achieved in the last decade. We are reshaping California into a state where immigrants and Dreamers are embraced, not demonized; where new school funding formulas hold the promise of prioritizing need over political influence; where climate policy can result in unprecedented investments in disadvantaged neighborhoods, reducing greenhouse gas emissions while combatting poverty and segregation at the same time. We can’t let regressive forces turn back the clock.

So let’s get out there and advocate, and advocate often.

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Latino Philanthropy: Being Generous to Others


By: Patricia Sinay

I am grateful to count working in philanthropy as part of my career; I have over 20 years of experience in the field of philanthropy. What I have learned through the years is that Latinos are some of the most passionate philanthropists I know.

For many, philanthropy means giving large donations to nonprofits, houses of worships, or educational institutions.  The truth is that philanthropy is much broader.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, philanthropy means: 1. goodwill to fellow members of the human race. 2. an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes. We all have stories of our grandmothers providing meals for friends in need, of our mothers volunteering at school and maybe even donating the clothes we outgrew to others in the community. These are all gestures of goodwill toward others and thus philanthropy.

Most of funding for nonprofits and schools comes from government.  Having said that it is important to note the power of private giving.  In 2014, total private giving in the United States was $358.38 billion, which was an increase of 7% from the previous year.  A majority, 72%, was from individuals while 15% came from foundations and 5% from corporations.  The top categories were religion (32%), then education (15%) and third was a tie between human services (12%) and gifts to foundations (12%).  According to Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) and the Foundation Center, “Over the past decade, U.S. foundation dollars explicitly designated to benefit Latinos have remained steady, comprising about 1% of total foundation funding, even as the Latino population has grown significantly over the same period.”  Please note that this does not represent all giving that may have benefited Latino communities. It just represents that giving that is clearly described as intended to benefit Latinos or Hispanics.

It is important to reiterate that the most generous group in the United States was not institutional philanthropy, but individuals.  Americans in general are very generous. Over 95% of households give to charity.  What is amazing as well is that the average household giving reached $2,030.  It is difficult to find statistics on giving by Latinos. We do know that Latinos’ giving is usually family or faith-based. In addition, when discussing giving it is also important to note that according to the World Bank and Pew Research Center migrant remittances (money migrants send back home) to all Spanish speaking Latin America was nearly $54 billion in 2013 with 78% coming from migrants in the United States.  Remittances are a larger source of money for Latin America than official foreign aid, which in 2011 totaled $6.2 billion. These monies are spent by households predominately on basic needs as well as allow families to save and invest and many times help villages build schools, roads, and churches.



Although Latinos are very generous, I would like to challenge us all to consider increasing our financial donations to at least 1% of our income to improve the outcomes of Latinos in California.  With the help of Pew Research Center, I calculate that if every Latino in California over the age of 20 donated 1% of their income, it would total over $2.1 billion a year!  A way to understand the enormity of our capacity to give is that U.S. foundations on average award only $206 million in grants per year to Latinos.

So what could 2.1 billion philanthropic dollars do for our communities?  A LOTFor starters, it could buy 20 million school textbooks, help put at least 17 thousand student through all four years of college, or purchase 7 thousand average homes per year!

One percent may seem like a lot, but when you break it down into monthly payments, it is doable.  First, 1% of your 40 hour work week is 24 minutes…that is less than half an hour.  Financially, if you make $50,000, your monthly donations would be about $42 dollars, which is less than the cost of dinner and a movie with friends.  So let your mind wander and envision the difference you want to make in your community and begin to invest in this dream and get others to do the same.  Together our giving will assure that our communities improve. So let’s promote giving by Latinos for Latinos!  For more information or ideas on philanthropy by and for Latinos you can visit Latino Community Foundation or Hispanics In Philanthropy.  Your local community foundation or United Ways can help you identify Latino lead and/or serving organizations near you.

patriciasinayAbout the Author: Patricia S. Sinay, HLI ’15, is a nonprofit and philanthropic consultant, instructor of public services, as well as a member of the Encinitas Union School Board.  Her purpose is to connect the passion of individuals and organizations to action that results in better communities. You can contact her at patricia@cistrategies.org.