Funding for Latinos Still Woefully Low

posted on: September 30, 2011

Just when I was beginning to have some hope that philanthropy was getting better at meeting the needs of communities who have been underserved or marginalized in some way, a preview of a new report hit me like a slap in the face.

I attended a reception for Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) in San Francisco last week. At the event, HIP and the Foundation Center shared a preview of findings from a study they are working on about foundation funding for Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S. and for Latin America.

The preliminary findings are sobering. The percentage of grant dollars benefiting Latinos has remained flat for ten years, at about 1.3 percent of total U.S. grantmaking, while the Latino share of U.S. population has risen from 13 percent to 16 percent during that same time period. These findings are even more outrageous considering that the Pew Hispanic Center has just released a study showing that Hispanic children are now the largest group of children in the U.S. living in poverty.

Some might argue that grants benefiting the general population benefit Latinos and these are not counted in the study. They also might say that grants targeted to benefit economically disadvantaged populations are helping Latinos and aren’t counted. Those arguments have some truth but also are entirely unsatisfying.

The issues facing Latinos are similar to but not identical to the issues facing other communities of color or economically disadvantaged communities. The principle of targeted universalism suggests that if we aren’t intentionally targeting our grants to ensure that Latinos are benefiting, then we are more likely to fail. The Latino community needs a bigger slice of the philanthropic pie, and all Americans will be better off when fewer Latinos are in poverty or are struggling with other social and economic challenges.

HIP and Foundation Center expect to release the full report in December 2011. I hope it serves as a wake-up call to the sector and results in better, more targeted philanthropy.

Aaron Dorfman is executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).