Creating the New “Culture of Giving”: Linking Philanthropy, Diversity and Latinos

The tools of institutional philanthropy – private and community foundations, endowments and other mechanism and devices – have long been largely the province of affluent white donors. That is changing, and it is changing in exciting ways. Increasingly, members of “minority” groups are developing the resources to engage in more institutional philanthropic enterprises than they had before. They are adapting the tools of institutional philanthropy to their own ends, shaping those tools to fit their own heritage and traditions and greatly benefiting their communities and their nation in the process.
— Joanne Scanlan, Council on Foundations Research Paper, Council’s Inclusive Practices Program, 1993
Henry T. Ingle, Ph.D., Sr. Partner, Public-Private Sector Partnerships, The Knowledge-Brokers Inc. Yolanda R. Ingle, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President, Constituent Relations, University of San Diego

Henry T. Ingle, Ph.D., Sr. Partner, Public-Private Sector Partnerships, The Knowledge-Brokers Inc. Yolanda R. Ingle, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President, Constituent Relations, University of San Diego

This article is focused on promising new directions for securing resources and the necessary “wherewithal” to bring about strategic improvements in educational access and quality instruction for all students. More specifically, the concern is with Latino student success and turning around the dismal college/university graduation rates of one of the youngest, largest and fastest-growing student groups in America’s educational system. However, as America’s future work force, there is need to change one major limitation within the country’s Latino communities, and that is the lack of success in our educational institutions, which has given Latinos the most dubious designation of “least educated status.” 

Latinos in the United States are in need of more focused educational attention since they represent one of the future windows of opportunity for maintaining and strengthening the quality of life and socioeconomic well-being of the country. Such an effort will require financial and people resources that heretofore have not been as readily available. With this out-come in mind, this article explores options for expanding diversity participation in philanthropy and charitable giving while also promoting greater inclusiveness in this effort across our colleges and universities.
Higher education must genuinely reach out to Latino donors and other members of the “minority giving community” to better understand their charitable giving behavior. There is need to build the knowledge base both to inform practice and work to change erroneous perceptions that Latinos do not give. They often are inappropriately classified as charity recipients and not as donors. The fundraising cultivation effort, there-fore, has not been routinely carried out with minority populations, and in particular Latinos, to the point that neither the development officers doing the fundraising nor the larger community have placed a positive value on these efforts.
This situation has to change in dramatic ways, both for the good of the country and the re-shaping of the “culture of giving” in America. There is need to seriously consider the upward socioeconomic mobility, diversity and multicultural shifts taking place across the country (2010 U.S. Census and reports from the Pew Research Center and other national centers monitoring the changing demographics). This window on America’s diversity presents as yet uncharted opportunities for a new “culture of giving.”

Rationale for Shaping a New “Culture of Giving”

Higher education must begin building stronger and more culturally relevant links to this new culture of giving, which might well change the future college and university student pipeline in America. It will increasingly require genuine outreach efforts to cultivate economically diverse and under-resourced minority communities, and in particular Latinos, to grow this new university donor base. The investment of time, attention and effort represents a very strategic and enlightened pathway because alumni gifts, as this article will highlight, in both big and small donations, make up a significant and growing source (reported in Council for Advancement and Support of Education, or CASE, newsletters to be about a quarter or 25 percent) of all giving to higher education.
In a very real sense, embarking in this direction is both timely and on the mark in light of the current economic challenges facing higher education institutions and the country’s future economic outlook. Amidst a climate of severe cutbacks in the support for higher education from state legislative bodies and at the federal government level, public colleges and universities across the country, where the largest concentration of Latino students are studying, are turning to their alumni. The effort is giving rise to a deeper understanding of and appreciation for what this multicultural and ethnic diversity of students might represent as they graduate, become alumni and form the new American work force.
Higher education must tap the passion for education across these communities, provide credible guidance in available options for schooling and, thereafter, transform these actions into student success, college completion and graduation that can, in turn, translate into participation and gift giving. For this purpose, we think that the immediate first step will be to reach out to Latinos to get them involved without asking them for money, but rather to give of their time, energy and intellect as volunteers. The expectation will be that as a result of this activity and engagement, these students will eventually be inspired to give financially, as well, as best they can.
In a recent New York Times article (Jan. 16, 2011, “Amidst Cuts, Public Colleges Step Up Appeals to Alumni” by Lisa W. Foderaro), we learn that alumni giving is an arena that private colleges and universities have tradition-ally pursued with much vigor and success. For several decades, the ethos of “giving back” and the cultivation of alumni participation have formed a time-honored practice at most private colleges and universities as they have worked to grow an overall fundraising strategy. It is no wonder, therefore, that the research and best professional practices coincide at this point in time.
Economic necessities and exigencies have prompted more innovative thinking in the institutional development career fields. Public higher education institutions are beginning to reach out to their growing number of graduates in the alumni ranks from diverse backgrounds, including a new new venue that our higher education institutions with large Latino enrollment need to study and emulate to the extent that it is feasible. It will require new, culturally sensitive staffing patterns and openness to embracing the value of this changing student demographic.
Attention also needs to be focused on improving the methods and means of attracting funding support from America’s growing diversity in a culturally relevant and appropriate manner. If successful, the effort will garner the necessary resources and participation rates from Latinos to bring about agreed-upon educational improvements through their own commitment to the “culture of giving.” The fundraising agenda becomes one of better defining the why, the what and who needs to be taught, and when, where and how the teaching-learning process should best be handled for a population that in a rather short period of time has moved from minority status to become one of the nation’s majority population groups. The emergent new message at the forefront needs to underscore the fact that the very economic fabric of the country will be challenged if this population is not able to benefit from a quality education and transition to assume economically viable roles in the American society. This message can promote the practice of inclusiveness and highlight the benefits for the greater good in terms of shaping conditions for the future quality of life for all Americans.
Our higher education institutions must expand the circle of stakeholders to support these efforts and in the process also pinpoint the most promising of these practices for widespread application and use. This is a particularly challenging endeavor in an era of dramatic economic disparities, ever so many competing demands for the available limited resources, and polarized perspectives, ignorance and stereotyping of diversity and immigration across mainstream America. We perceive, however, that the U.S. Latino community represents an untapped resource that we are just beginning to understand and value in terms of its potential contributions to the future well-being of America and to the creation of a new culture of giving to replace mistaken perceptions of just “who gives” and “who receives.”

Changing the Mindset About Latinos and the Culture of Giving

Today the Latino community in America has grown to represent just under 25 percent of the country’s population, and it is characterized as having a purchasing power of well over $600 billion annually, according to HispanTelligence, a research division of Hispanic Business Inc. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, Latino households in America earning more than$100,000 annually are reported to be growing. In this respect, Latinos are unique and, as a result, represent a potentially strong group of prospects for the “culture of giving.”
In the education arena, traditionally, the Latino community has relied heavily on federal, state and local government grants and contracts to bring about change in the status quo and more pointedly address issues of student access, retention and graduation. Subsequently, foundations and philanthropic agencies have been targeted for resources for these efforts, which in turn have been augmented by nonprofit agencies and the business sector. At the same time, there is a prevalent myth in many circles of the development fundraising community that Latinos do not give, with implications that we are merely the takers or recipients of resources from others.
There is enough evidence to put forth strong arguments that challenge these assertions, based on our working experience in brokering fundraising initiatives and creating a “culture of giving” across our communities and the agencies that represent them. And today, amidst an expanding middle class of successful Latino college and university graduates, it can be persuasively argued that strategic, well-thought-out, and culturally relevant appeals to the growing middle-class, college-educated and successful business segment of the U.S. Latino community needs to be cultivated to create this new “culture of giving” in a more globally oriented and multicultural manner.
Collectively, these stakeholders also represent one of the most promising new developments for brokering important public-private sector partner-ships because of their small- to medium-size business ownership in the economy. Potentially, it represents a “win-win” outcome for both the donors and recipients of these resources in terms of expanding the “culture of giving” to those that can give, as well as those that at one time or another in the past have been most in need. Money is not the only answer, but it is an essential and important ingredient to bring about change. To this end, there are a number of critical questions that need to be asked to get to the right answer and promote new levels of involvement that can highlight Latinos as they work to become both “givers” and “receivers” of the needed resources.

2009 Charitable Giving Total= $303.75 Billion

Source: Giving USA Foundation/Giving USA 2010

The areas that might profitably be explored for this purpose are embedded in our collective answers to the following questions, which are highlighted throughout the body of this article. They include considerations, such as: How does one go about creating a genuine “culture of giving” that reaches out to both the Latino community and the external circle of likely donors and givers? What are the most persuasive socioeconomic arguments to put forth in locating funding for the nation’s Latino communities in need of assistance?And who are the community spokespersons to carry the message to make it happen? What segments of the resource-giving agenda should the federal, state and local government agencies handle? And also, what are the particular new roles that the foundation and philanthropic sectors can best play?How should the business community and nonprofit sectors be brought on board in the shaping of this “culture of giving” for Latino educational improvements? What expectations and roles should we put in place for Latino students and alumni from our colleges and universities in terms of the new fundraising and culture of giving agenda? Finally, and most important, How should we work to debunk the stereotyped and prevalent perceptions that Latinos do not give and are merely takers or recipients of resources that in the minds of many have promoted a “welfare recipient” mindset?

Observations and Considerations for Shaping the New Culture of Giving

As earlier stated, the largest growth area across the “culture of giving” and philanthropy today, and for the foreseeable future, will be that of cultivating individual person-to-person donations. This contrasts sharply with past practices in which the largest sums of money came from foundations, corporate and business groups, and the contracts and grants sector from federal and state government sources. As a result, there is now an opportunity to expand this “culture of giving” from the more traditional sources on which Latinos have relied to also focus attention on individual givers within the more affluent and better-educated segments of the diverse Latino communities, as regularly profiled in Hispanic Business and The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazines and by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Hispanic College Fund, Hispanics in Philanthropy and other Latino philanthropy publications and organizations, as well as CASE and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Latinos who have completed a university education and, more likely than not, are now successful working professionals represent a group of donors who are in a position to be significant “givers of resources” to respond to the challenges of increasing the number of Latinos completing higher education. The present noncompletion and dropout rates will severely impact the U.S. economy if there is not a major push to more effectively educate Latinos who now and for the foreseeable future represent the largest segment of growth in the population of the country. These evolving circumstances represent an opportunity or “tipping point” to underscore the enduring value of the Latino community as a “culture of giving and caring” and, in the process, provide persuasive and convincing messages to mainstream America on the benefits gained in better educating Latinos.

Major Tasks to Be Undertaken & Expected Outcomes and Results

Within this context, there are some major tasks that all of us collectively and individually need to address in developing a cohesive framework and strategic plan to communicate these new messages across America. It represents a priority effort to raise the kinds of funds and resources that can make a major difference in Latino student success considerations across the United States. Latinos in the United States need to focus group attention on five major areas of concern: 1) Revamping and Updating a Statement Identifying Who We Are and What We Seek and Do (in a clearly understood and easy to remember statement); 2) Developing a Realistic Fundraising Framework and Set of Expectations Across Those Members of Our Latino Communities Best Positioned to Give; 3) Shaping of the Compelling/Significant Messages that Need to be Communicated; 4) Identifying the Channels for Communicating the Fundraising Messages Along with Identification Procedures for Likely Donors; and 5) Setting up a More Viable Structure for the Management, Stewardship and Accountability of the Fundraising Efforts and the Results Achieved.
In the most recent 2009-10 reports from the Giving USA Foundation,$315.08 billion were raised by private donor groups, including the corporate sector, corporations, foundations and individuals. Of this sum, corporations contributed 4 percent; foundations, including family foundations, 13 percent; and individuals, $251.21 billion, 75 percent; and bequests, 8 percent. These data convincingly underscore the assertion that, by far, it is the individual person-to-person sector that is providing the highest percentage of contributions, particularly when individual donations and bequests are combined. It documents that these two groups contributed approximately 83 percent of the total “Giving Agenda” made in the 2009-10 period reviewed, as opposed to the approximate 17 percent from the other two major entities – corporations and foundations.
The total amount of contributions was $303.75 billion, which suggests that “the culture of giving” has become a major business development activity across all sectors of the economy and the society. Because the largest percentage of donations is coming from individual donors, the fundraising and cultivation effort requires a greater investment of time, genuine commitment and dedicated institutional resources and staff sup-port to successfully respond to this “people-to-people” agenda. It is a labor-intensive effort.

Much Is Expected from Those Who Have Received in the Past

Gifts from the growing number of individual family foundations within the philanthropic category could ostensibly be added to the individual giving percentages. Here again, the resulting data reinforce the importance of a new strategy focused on tapping individuals on a one-to-one basis for financial support in a reinvigorated “culture of giving.” This strategy might initially be focused on a growing segment of Latino college graduates or alumni as professionally successful individuals with a certain degree of disposable income and motivation to give. We need to live by the adage that “much is expected from those who have received in the past.” Higher education institutions need to focus on increasing the Latino participation percentages of successful students and donors, and we as Latinos need to join the participation ranks in greater numbers to become part of the “culture of giving back” at whatever levels our socioeconomic means allow. The mistaken public images of Latinos as a “drain on the society” with terrible patterns of underachievement need to be turned around. We face the challenge of creating a revitalized “culture of giving” both from within the Latino community and in partnership with other significant segments of the society.
As a Latino/a alumnus from a college or university, each of us can make a difference in the educational arena of the next generation of Latinos through our own personal and active participation in a new “culture of giving.” In short, we need to become part of the Malcolm Gladwell (2000) “tipping point” to bring about this important societal change. Most assuredly, individual little things we do can indeed make a big difference.