By Priscilla Rodriguez | m/Oppenheim Media Writer
According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are over 55 million people of Hispanic origin living in the United States, and a large sum of that population lives in California.
“There are 15 million Latinos living in California alone and there is an incredible opportunity to lift up the contributions that have been made by Latinos over decades that we barely talk about,” says Jacqueline Garcel, Chief Executive Officer of the Latino Community Foundation, an organization focused on leveraging philanthropy to advance political, social and economic opportunities for California’s largest ethnic group.
With the help of over 400 members and 13 Giving Circles, the Latino Community Foundation shapes a movement within California that embraces the giving culture of Latinos.
“Latinos have a desire to pay if forward and give back to the community,” says Garcel, and the foundation seeks to unleash that “giving nature” across the state to drive long-lasting change in communities.
Perhaps one of the most important ways in which LCF invests in the Latino community is by driving voter registration, and by encouraging young generations of Latinos to exercise their voices in shaping legislation.
Latinos make up nearly 7 million of eligible voters in California — the largest voting block in the nation — and yet the voting rates are below 20 percent.
“We talk about activating our democracy and ensuring that millennials are active voters because it is key to democracy in California and nationally, and we want to unlock this,” says Garcel.
“The electorate should reflect the demographic shift in the state of California and in the country.”
Last year, before the 2016 presidential election, the foundation launched the “Yo Voy a Votar” campaign, which sought to increase the number of Latinos registered to vote through major outreach campaigns.The campaign reached 8 million people, and at least 38% of eligible Latinos voters casted their vote for the election.
In addition to its own groundwork, LCF invests in organizations that are dedicated to the well-being of the marginalized groups within the Latino community, such as low-income families, homeless individuals or those with unstable housing, and survivors of domestic violence.
“We are investing in them as a nonprofit to make sure that they have the capacity they need to continue doing this work,” says Garcel.
In response to the growing crisis of discrimination against Latinos, LCF invests too in organizations that provide legal defense to protect immigrant rights, “because now the narrative is of criminalizing immigrants and as a result, there’s a sense of fear created in certain communities,” she explains.
Part of the solution to reshaping the narrative on Latinos lies in the resilient voices of the Latino-led organizations in California and across the U.S. that are driving positive change. Therefore, the foundation launched the Latino Nonprofit Accelerator, a one-year program which trains nonprofits in several key areas in an effort to ensure their continued development and work for the Latino community.
The next goal for the organization, says Garcel, will be to expand its impact by achieving an endowment upwards of $50 million and to empower a new generation of Latinos to take charge of their futures, and exercise their right to vote.
“I always say that as Latinos thrive solo, the economy of California thrives and same goes with our involvement in political action,” says Garcel.
“There’s a need to elevate the voice of Latinos because we’ve been here for many years, and recognizing that is really important.”