Funders Should Support Arizona Charities

posted on: May 25, 2010

A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy details how Arizona charities that serve the state’s Latino population are bracing for the impact of the recently passed immigration law. According to The New York Times, the law is designed to “identify, prosecute, and deport illegal immigrants.” It is the most stringent immigration law in the nation and many grassroots groups view it as a racially-charged attempt to frighten and persecute Latinos, even those who have documents.

The Chronicle quotes Luz Sarmena, CEO of the Phoenix social services organization Valle del Sol as saying, “The law is already in effect in people’s minds… People are afraid of coming in for services and being picked up. They worry police may be on the street outside—not just the undocumented are worried, but all Latinos.” Organizations are also concerned about a silent boycott of the state by outside funders, which provide the majority of grant dollars for nonprofits in the state. Some grantees are already receiving requests from funders for proof that they are not serving undocumented immigrants. And other community leaders quoted in the article indicate that the fear of arrest extends beyond their constituents to their own staff, who may be liable if transporting undocumented clients.

What is a funder to do? The disparate impact of the law on the Latino community and the nonprofits that serve them is already clear: a charter school expects a 20 percent enrollment drop, an affordable housing corporation has already had families give notices, and a social services agency is cautioning clients to avoid any activity that could draw attention to themselves, lest they be subjected to the new documentation and identification demands of the law. Nationally, many are calling for boycotts of the state, including those advocating for Major League Baseball to pull its 2011 All Star game from Phoenix. Public opinion polls indicate continued support for comprehensive national immigration reform.

While the economic impact of these boycotts could send a message to state lawmakers, funders following suit could devastate nonprofits that primarily rely on national funders for revenue. According to the Foundation Center, in 2007, Arizona’s 827 foundations held $4.9 billion in assets and gave away $279 million in grants, representing 0.6 percent of giving nationwide and placing it 30th among states for foundation giving. How large is Arizona’s nonprofit sector? The National Center for Charitable Statistics found that in 2007 the state’s 5,111 public charities raised $19 billion in revenue, of which $3.9 billion came from public contributions.

Now is the time for national funders to step up to the plate and support their nonprofit partners in Arizona. As the law is implemented, it will be a critical time for nonprofits to be able to serve their clients and to engage in organizing and advocacy to mitigate any negative impacts. Nonprofits will need to be able to document and describe how the law is affecting their work and their communities, and that will take time and resources. Finally, even if the expected exodus means less demand on nonprofits serving Latinos as the article suggests, these organizations still have to contend with the law’s impact on those without the resources to leave the state.

Julia Craig is research associate at NCRP.