As we consider the impact of our evolving demographics one thing is certain; the philanthropic community must step up to the plate and respond to the needs of the Hispanic community in a meaningful way.
For too long Hispanic oriented programs were at best an appendage to ongoing foundation programs. In the best of instances Hispanic initiatives were placeholders for future programs. More often than not, however, in the absence of data about the Hispanic community the response of the philanthropic sector was to apply the lessons learned from other segments of the population to Hispanics and thus further diminish the unique Hispanic experience. In some instances foundations spent their resources on tasks to help them study and think. Throughout all of these exercises time passed and today the Hispanic population has grown to a level that is not adequately reflected by today’s funding priorities.
Looking at the foundations in California, Texas, and New York it is evident that only a negligible amount of the dollars actually ends up addressing the concerns of Hispanics. Moreover, there is a reluctance to fund Hispanic programs unless they are cloaked in conceptual frameworks that provide a comfort level to the funder. For example, endowment campaigns for Hispanic organizations may need to be rethought and many of the rules about fundraising principles may need to be retooled.
Yet the voice of the Hispanic community is not as strong as one would expect. Today Hispanics are 1 out of every 6 people in the United States; and yet that number is not reflected in the boards, staff, or programs of the philanthropic sector. We have a long way to go but with responsible leadership we will get there.