Why We Need To Open Philanthropy’s Gated Community to Latinx and Afro-Latinx

Philanthropy BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of latinocf.org

Like society in general, the philanthropic world also has its racial inequalities that are affecting Latinx/Afro Latinx communities in this post-pandemic era. The only way to alleviate this problem is for community-based funders and foundations to begin viewing their work through a race-based lens, so no one gets left behind.

To understand why there is a problem in the philanthropic system, it’s important to understand the difference between acts of charity and philanthropy. While charity is an emotion-driven act focused on providing immediate relief to people, philanthropy focuses on helping people to solve their problems over the long term. 

In theory, a foundation or a philanthropist aims to help those in need. However, philanthropy can also be an expression of power by the rich that includes tax exemptions. And since the act of giving depends on the personal whims and politics of wealthy individuals, the lack of Latinx people in philanthropy has put them at a huge disadvantage. 

Though there have been decades of support, ranging from the prestigious Ford Foundation’s pioneering Latino arts and cultural outreach programs to the rise of celebrity philanthropists like Shakira, who opened schools in Colombia, significant and ongoing donations to Latinx causes are still scarce.

The Guardian reported that in the United States, barely a fifth of the money donated by philanthropists goes to the poor. Most of the money goes to the arts, sports teams, and other cultural pursuits, while the other half goes to education and healthcare. And given that the richest 1% of Americans are considerably more right-wing than the public as a whole on issues of taxation, economic regulation, and especially welfare programs for the poor, this also doesn’t fare well for Latino-targeted philanthropy. 

Recent research by Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group shows how inequitable funding to leaders of color significantly impacts their ability to create impact in their communities. “When it comes to philanthropic funding—the racial disparity is clear. Population-level impact in the issues donors care about cannot happen without funding more leaders of color and funding them more deeply,” the report reads. 

Hispanics in Philanthropy and the Latino Equity Fund to the rescue

Since average philanthropists’ choices for causes tend to reinforce social inequalities, the good news is the existence of nonprofit groups like Hispanics in Philanthropy and the Latino Equity Fund who are trying to remedy the problem

The HIPGive platform includes a tool for digital giving circles and crowdfunding events to increase Latino funding throughout the Americas. In an NBC News interview, its President and CEO, Ana Marie Argilagos, said, “Funders have begun conversations of commitment to close the inequality gap.” While on a more state and local level, the person responsible for battling long-standing inequities in Massachusetts is Evelyn Barahona. She leads a philanthropic fund designed to help its Latino community. 

Founded in 2013, The Latino Equity Fund was the first Latino-focused fund in Boston. It aims to raise $10 million over the next three years to invest in Latino businesses and organizations. “If you have a large community that’s growing, but they’re not really prospering, society ends up losing out,” said Barahona in a statement. “We want to help this underserved group prosper, which really can help the state as well.”

Looking toward the future, the challenge ahead will be to open and diversify philanthropy´s gated communities of privilege that are not accessible to most leaders of color. Once they’re opened, more inclusive funding practices that can help community foundations will not only benefit Latinx/Afro Latinx people but the entire economy in general. Philanthropy shouldn’t just be about the 1% percent’s charitable whims but an entire democracy’s needs.