Our Latinos in Tech Giving Circle made the Cover of the Chronicle Philanthropy! Read Jim Rendon’s full piece:
Hector Mujica was just a child when his family came to the United States from Venezuela in 1998. When they arrived, a community of immigrants in the Miami suburbs, as well as the Catholic church, came to his family’s aid. Soon after, his parents started helping others. Newly arrived immigrants would stay with them. The whole family volunteered to feed homeless people on Thanksgiving. Though the family had little, they always found ways to help.
“In my experience, philanthropy is not something that’s exclusive to people that are high net worth, that are of a certain background or age or gender or racial group. It’s really something that’s within reach for anyone,” he says. “The intent is really about the opportunity to show grace to people on the margins. I think there’s something uniquely powerful about giving back.”
Today Mujica, 34, is the head of economic opportunity for the Americas at Google.org, where he oversees grant-making focused on creating a more just and equitable economy that works for everyone. He serves on the boards of the Hispanic Federation and Hispanics in Philanthropy and is a founding member of the Latino Community Foundation’s Latinos in Tech Giving Circle, which has given away $231,000. Each member gives $1,000 a year through the circle. Mujica also gives about $20,000 annually to the groups on whose boards he serves.
The Latino Community Foundation started giving circles with a group of 40 women in 2012. “We want new faces to democratize philanthropy, for people to see themselves as philanthropists,” says Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, the CEO. “They don’t have to be a Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.”
The organization’s Latino Giving Circle Network has given out $2.6 million. The giving circles meet every few months. Each one has 15 to 40 people who pool their donations and choose causes on which they want to focus. The community foundation helps them find potential groups to support. The leaders of those organizations meet with the members of the circle and pitch them on their work. The idea is to personalize the process and bring donors and organizations closer together — and to direct dollars to tiny groups that are often overlooked.
Martinez Garcel points out that mainstream philanthropy is failing Latino-led organizations. They receive only about 1 percent of all grant dollars, she says. This model puts control back in the hands of Latinos.
The idea was a natural fit for Mujica. The giving circles taught him about the power groups of donors can have and the importance of knowing about and supporting groups that work in his community.
“It made philanthropy not just something that’s benefiting Latinos, but it’s also something that Latinos are contributing to,” he says. “They are really taking big, audacious bets with whatever resources that they have right now.”
One of the nonprofits he supports through the giving circle is Digital Nest, which provides technology education largely to Latinos. The organization primarily serves young people in farmworker communities and has had success using instructors from those same communities who understand the challenges people there face. That local and contextual knowledge has been important, he says.
‘Paying It Forward’
As Mujica follows his parents’ example of serving others, he is committed to using his time and connections in addition to his financial contributions.
“Hector epitomizes the people that are attracted to this work, people who have a lot to offer and have been given opportunities to be able to pay it forward,” Martinez Garcel says. “He’s not afraid to go to the head of Google.org and say, ‘We need to invest more in Latino- and Black-led organizations’ and have those conversations. It’s this unapologetic fearlessness that is grounded in values of generosity, of social justice, and paying it forward.”
Even in his early years at Google a decade ago, Mujica found ways to help young people who aspired to work in the technology industry. He volunteered to lead coding and résumé workshops for Latino students and give them tours at Google, says Chris Torres, a product technology manager at the company who met Mujica through those volunteer efforts. Mujica has always been open about his family’s story, which helped him connect with the students he, Torres, and others mentored.
Mujica has linked nonprofits with people at Google. When a community foundation grantee had a technology problem that jeopardized a $4.5 million federal grant, Mujica was able to rally co-workers to help fix the problem, Martinez Garcel says.
He has become a leader among Latinos at Google and was one of the founding members of the Latino employee resource group there. Torres says that Latino directors at Google often seek advice from Mujica about how to support Latinos.
“He’s almost like a godfather figure,” says Torres. “He’s amazingly insightful.”
Mujica volunteers as a board member at the Hispanic Federation, where he provides professional and sometimes personal support.
Frankie Miranda, the group’s president, took the helm in late 2019 right as a series of earthquakes caused billions of dollars in damage in Puerto Rico. The Covid pandemic hit just a few months later. Nonprofits needed protective equipment and technology that would allow them to work and provide services remotely as well as training. Groups were dealing with border, housing, and economic crises along with a pandemic all at once. The pressure to help Hispanic organizations address these life-and-death issues was overwhelming, Miranda says.
As Miranda confronted these multiple crises as a new leader, he questioned his ability to lead. “Hector told me, ‘You can do this Frankie; you have the capacity.’”
Mujica checked in often and helped connect the organization with donors. He got Google involved to help with technology training. He has also helped the group to be more forward thinking, particularly when it comes to helping young Latinos break into the tech industry, Mirada says. Mujica also helped raise the federation’s profile by getting Miranda on a South by Southwest panel.
“He has been a superstar from the very beginning,” Miranda says.
Much of what Mujica has learned through the giving circle and his board work also informs his role as a professional philanthropist at Google.org.
“The people working in philanthropy that come from underrepresented backgrounds have a unique experience,” he says. “I think that yields a much stronger and better result.”
This article was originally published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on December 13, 2022. Read more.