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Latino Community Foundation partners with big tech to help small Latino-led organizations
Latino Community Foundation (LCF) Accelerator at Google, in San Francisco on July 11, 2019. Courtesy: Bryan Patrick

With immigrants and their communities increasingly under fire, the Latino Community Foundation is helping pave the way in philanthropy funding for Latino-led grassroot support organizations via its nonprofit accelerator.

According to LCF leadership, little more than one percent of dollars designated for philanthropy in the United States go to Latino-led organizations. The LCF acknowledges this huge disparity and is actively working to get Latino-led organizations noticed by top investors. It has partnered with tech organizations like Google and introduced the startup investment model to its yearly incubator program.

“San Francisco is the tech hub of the world,” said LCF CEO Jacqueline Martinez Garcel. “There would be such a difference if we were investing in our Latino leaders—as nonprofit leaders—as we were investing in our startups.”

The incubator program is set to provide core support and match Latino-led organizations with world-class investors who can increase their revenue, said Martinez Garcel. Many community nonprofits struggle to stay afloat, but with the accelerator, Google helps organizations incorporate technology that wouldn’t be normally accessible to grassroot organizations. Martinez Garcel said the LCF is “combining the incredible intellectual capital that lives in the tech field and offering that as support for the organizations that they support.” LCF also aims to provide these organizations with tools such as: one-on-one marketing and design support; top photographers; weekly meetings with mentoring and funding coaches; grant money; and Google analytics trainings to help target their organizations correct messaging.

Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation (LCF), speaks at the LCF Accelerator at Google in San Francisco on July 11, 2019. Courtesy: Bryan Patrick

The LCF launched the accelerator program in 2018 with nine Latino grassroots organizations, each of which had a budget less than $2 million. The LCF received a positive response with its 2018 cohort and raised a total of 2.5 million in funding for organizations.

Jacob Martinez, CEO of DigitalNest, was a part of the 2018 LCF accelerator and has since seen his organization expand both its financial reach and civic engagement reach.

“It was absolutely transformative for our organization,” said Martinez. “It opened doors to new foundations that we never had access to.”

Based in Watsonville, California, DigitalNest serves as a tech hub for Latino youth ages 14-24. They work with the youth of rural and agricultural communities by equipping them with the skills to pursue tech jobs. The idea is to create a brain trust that remains in the Watsonville community. Since the 2018 accelerator, DigitalNest has grown to be a $2 million organization and is now working on opening its second location in Salinas, California.

“There is a crisis going on in our communities today,” said Martinez. “We don’t have time to apply for a grant then wait six months to hear back. . . we need to invest now we need to mobilize now and we need to make change happen now because our youth and our communities are suffering.”

Latino communities across the country have found themselves fighting an uphill battle because of the policies of this administration that continuously target Latino and immigrant communities; and as a result our Latino grassroot organization are at the frontlines representing community members during these crucial times. However, many of these grassroots organizations don’t have the means to properly compensate their workers, the ability to think of new strategies to support their communities or heal from the work that they are doing themselves.

According to LCF, Latinos make up 18 percent of the nation and 40 percent of California. LCF has made it its mission to continue the accelerator until it can successfully support all Latino-led organizations in California.

Latino Community Foundation (LCF) Accelerator at Google, in San Francisco on July 11, 2019. Courtesy: Bryan Patrick

“We exist to unleash the power of Latinos here in California,” said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel.

Maria Rogers Pascual, CEO of Prospera, is a current participant of the 2019 accelerator cohort and has already seen growth in her organization. Prospera has served in the Bay Area community for 25 years as an organization that supports Latina immigrant women to become business owners.

“This is a unique program for organizations like us,” said Pascual. “To have this opportunity to get support in really building your infrastructure and capacity to grow is really unusual, because most of the time organizations like Prospera are hand to mouth and we are always struggling to have to focus on our programs and to bring in income.”

The grant money that Prospera received from LCF has allowed it to focus on rebranding. Through the LCF incubator they have also been meeting with a fundraising coach on a weekly basis and a team of consultants that have been working with Prospera on their branding strategies.

In addition to providing investing and professional resources, LCF also provides Latino organizers with a community they can rely on. They host three retreats throughout the year long accelerator, where organizers have the opportunity to heal and speak on their daily challenges.

“Thinking about the LCF and what they do and what we do as a community is so important right now in this particular context that we are in,” said Pascual. “What really inspires me is that we are really building a community of love because we are in an environment of a lot of hate and our communities are really the targets of this hate and to have a movement that is saying no we are actually building something completely different I think is just very inspirational.”

LCF will wrap up its second accelerator in February 2020 and will start planning for the third cohort.

Story by: Jacqueline Pinedo