by Armando Zumaya, Founder, Somos El Poder
When I tell people I have founded a Latinx fundraising institute there are two reactions. Mostly, people are mystified and don’t understand, and some think it’s a joke. But fundraisers, especially Latinx fundraisers, become excited and are thrilled.
The difference between the two groups is that one knows the power of fundraising. Nonprofits these days, especially Latinx and progressive organizations, have fundraising programs that are small–if they have a fundraising program at all. Nonprofits are highly dependent on foundation grants, some fundraising mailings, and that’s usually about it. Small resources mean small programs, small impact, small change.
The nonprofit fundraising community has, by and large, ignored 20% of the population: the 59 million Latinx in the United States today. Nobody teaches grassroots fundraising, and nobody teaches Latinx-focused nonprofits to raise money from our own people.
Latinx have tremendous philanthropic potential. I estimate that Latinx can give over $24 billion dollars annually in the United States. Unfortunately, traditional fundraising hasn’t engaged Latinx. This is undeveloped potential that needs to be developed.
I grew up poor in East Los Angeles and saw injustice and racism from a young age. Latinx often simply don’t understand their own power when they are organized and when they recognize their own resources in our community.
I had the idea to start this institute for years. It bounced around in the back of my head in pieces, never really coming together. In 2018, I had Guillain Barre Disease, which is very rare and left me paralyzed and in a hospital bed. It took four days for a diagnosis: one night I almost died because I stopped breathing at 1am. The next morning, I asked myself: what would I do, if I lived, that might have some impact on the world? And it came together in my brain. “Found a Latinx fundraising institute.”
Social injustice in the United States will only change when people of color have powerful community resources to call upon. We need resources In education, civil rights, women’s rights, immigration, and much more. When we are organized, united, and raise billions every year for our causes it will be a different country.
Somos el Poder is a fiscally sponsored program at Commonweal. You can find out more about Somos el Poder and about Armando Zumaya on their websites.