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Diversity Essay: Latino philanthropy in the U.S.

Resource Center - Foundation

The views expressed herein are those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or the organizations with which the authors are affiliated.

By Juan Calixto, CFRE, Mujeres Latinas en Acción
AFP IL, Chicago Chapter

Marketing and research firms specializing in the Latino market have been busy since the 2000 United States Census data revealed the Latino population has reached 35.3 million people representing 12.5 percent of the U.S. population. Over the past year, news headlines such as "Gatorade Specially Formulated for Latinos" on DiversityInc.com demonstrate corporate America's desire to reach Latino consumers. Currently, Latino purchasing power is estimated to reach $450 billion and is projected to increase annually faster than all other ethnic groups according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising. This knowledge serves as a wake up call to nonprofits that have yet to consider Latinos as potential donors. Fundraisers can tap this potential resource by following basic prospect research techniques. Know your audience. Get them involved. And, follow through with good stewardship.

Knowing your audience

Good prospect research calls for learning about your prospect -- where they work, their affiliations, personal history, and financial position. During the research process, nonprofits should also learn how Latino prospects liked to be called and what makes them unique. One of the first questions asked when researching a Latino prospects has been -- is the prospect Latino or Hispanic? Hispanic and Latino are terms used interchangeable by the federal government to describe persons living in the United States who themselves or their ancestors were born in a Spanish speaking country. This includes Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Spanish speaking countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. Latinos, like everyone else, have the right to self identify and describe their ethnicity in a variety of ways including Latino, Hispanic, Spanish-American, etc. Generalities have been made based on the most common term used in different parts of the United States. The best way to learn which term an individual prefers is to ask. Outside of the U.S. the designations do not exist because individuals self identify by their country of origin.

In trying to understand why Latinos are unique, nonprofits often mistake Latino stereotypes for facts. This is never a good idea. Latinos in the U.S. come from more than 20 different countries and the diversity among them includes their historical influence that led them to the United States, length of stay in the U.S. and preferred language. While the 2000 census shows 58 percent of all Latinos in the U.S. are Mexican, some Mexican families can trace their length of stay in the U.S. back 500 years. Mexico owned the better part of Western U.S. territory until 1848. Through war, annexation and purchase, these territories became part of the U.S. making Mexicans immigrants overnight. Today there is significant immigration flow from Mexico making their historical experience in the U.S. different from a Mexican that has five generations of living in the U.S. Puerto Ricans whom are U.S. citizens by birth do not have the same historical perspective as Cuban Americans whom most have been considered political refugees since 1960.

Spanish is the first language for the vast majority of Latino households in the U.S. Second and third generation Latinos accumulating wealth are fully bilingual or English dominant. The Latino middle class increased a whopping 80 percent over the past 20 years according to a report by the Thomas Rivera Policy Institute. The same study found that their discretionary income almost doubled to $72 billion between 1990-2000. Before sending an appeal to a Latino prospect list in Spanish, it is best to follow basic prospect research techniques and test the list. Latino donors will respond to English language material that appeals to the potential donors' interests and demonstrates knowledge and respect for their ethnic background.

Get them involved

Matching a Latino prospect to the right project becomes an easier job once you know your audience. Latinos are interested in making new contacts that will advance their personal goals. Getting involved with your institution may help to achieve that goal. Thoughtful consideration should be given in selecting the right solicitor to offer the Latino prospect the opportunity to join a board, sponsor an event, or join a new campaign committee. This job should not be assigned to the person that can speak Spanish fluently. The right solicitor should be a respected peer to the prospect that believes in your cause and has been well prepared to make the ask.

Showing a link to the Latino community is not always mandatory in recruiting Latinos, but it provides more incentive for a prospect with an interest in Latino affairs. Part of preparing for the solicitation call requires knowing the amount of Latino involvement within your institution. Nonprofits should be prepared to answer the following questions. What percentage of Latinos accesses the institution annually? How many Latinos participate in leadership positions? What percentage of Latino vendors does the institution do business with? How does the Latino population relate to the mission or why does the institution have an interest in increasing Latino involvement?

Practice good stewardship

Providing timely recognition to Latinos that have become involved with your institution is a small part of exercising good stewardship. Strategically planning to increase Latino participation and demonstrating achievement is key to transforming Latino volunteers into long-term donors. Establishing an advisory board of young Latino professionals, conducting an event during Hispanic Heritage month, ensuring your marketing materials include Latino images, contracting a Latin band for your special event or offering Latino art at your next auction are examples of visible steps that demonstrate commitment towards the Latino community.

Conclusion

Latinos have proven to be brand loyal in the commercial market and establishing loyalty to your cause requires knowing your audience, getting them involved and practicing good stewardship. The U.S. census identifies Latinos as a young population indicating the majority has not reached their primary giving years. This is a powerful incentive for nonprofits to strategically target Latinos as donors and volunteers. As long as Latino are valued, treated with respect and can articulate how they are contributing to your cause; they will be a loyal resource helping nonprofits improve the condition of human kind throughout the United States.

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