Several years ago, while a development officer for a major state university, I was part of an innovative effort to identify and develop strategies to engage growing segments of our alumni and donor base. Some of this brainstorming was spurred by an upcoming comprehensive capital campaign, but mostly the university’s development office wanted to understand how we could respond effectively to the rapidly changing demographic landscape of our campus and ultimately our alumni.
For more than a decade, higher education has experienced significant increases in the number of culturally and ethnically diverse students admitted and attending. For example, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Hispanic college enrollment totaled 497,641 in fall 2012, 260,247 more than in fall 2000, and 23,000 more than in fall 2011. These rising student enrollment numbers are reflective of an extraordinary demographic shift in Texas in which Hispanics continue to drive the overall population growth of our state.
Why should fundraisers for institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations pay attention to demographic trends? The answer to this question became clear during the economic downturn in 2008, when charitable organizations across the country experienced several years of depressed funding from traditional sources of revenue such as government and philanthropic and "discretionary" individual funding.
Some organizations/institutions recognized that, in order to mitigate the negative effects of the financial crisis, they needed to broaden their traditional donor base and explore strategies for engaging often overlooked, but emerging communities of color. Other organizations simply chose to wait it out, missing the opportunity to understand methods and motivations for giving among these communities of color.
With the continued growth of minority populations, organizations that do not fully engage diverse communities in philanthropy do so at their own economic peril.
Because there is such little information on the giving patterns of communities of color and no established data-gathering organization has seriously undertaken this issue, I want to share what I have learned in working with one of the fastest growing and largest ethnic minority groups in Texas - the Hispanic community.
While much of what I have learned about Hispanic philanthropy has been in the context of higher education, nonprofit organizations serving and engaging this population can easily apply these observations to their work. Here are things that every fundraiser should know in working with Hispanic donors:
1. Engaging the Hispanic community for its philanthropic support is not just about marketing. Attempts to engage this diverse community have typically been through mass marketing tools and techniques. Including photos of Hispanics in collateral materials and/or translating them into Spanish are not enough. While these strategies may indicate your interest in the community and help to raise awareness of your organization, it will not help you build one-on-one relationships which we know is key to successful fundraising.
2. A genuine commitment to diversity is critical. An organization attempting to engage the Hispanic community must be committed to this for the long-term and must demonstrate a meaningful understanding of the culture and priorities of the Hispanic community. This means identifying the segment or segments of the Hispanic population you are targeting – Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc. Being Hispanic means so many different things, much of which depends on where you were born, where your parents were born, and if you speak Spanish or not. Figure out who you want to engage and start talking to them. Learn as much as you can about their culture, their priorities, and their passions. Note there may be some generational differences, so be sure to engage a variety of age groups as well.
I’ll discuss more ways that your nonprofit can engage the Hispanic community in the April issue of this newsletter.
Bacon Lee & Associates:
Over the past fifteen years, Priscilla has worked with a diverse group of local and national nonprofit organizations focusing on: 1) program design and management; 2) nonprofit governance and 3) fund development. As an attorney and consultant, she has a strong combination of education and experience in the field of gift and estate planning and overall nonprofit management.
Priscilla served as Associate Director of Development for The University of Texas at Austin focusing on major and planned gifts in support of University-wide priorities. She also served as Director of Development and Legal Counsel for Southwest Key Programs, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Austin, Texas. In this role, she focused on corporate and major gifts in support of a $7 million capital campaign.
Priscilla earned a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in education administration from The University of Texas at Austin, and a law degree from St. Mary's University. Priscilla currently serves on the boards of Ballet Austin and KLRU-TV. She is a founding member of FuturoFund Austin and a graduate of Leadership Austin's Emerge and Essential programs. Priscilla is married to John-Michael V. Cortez and together they have a daughter, Isabella.