More than 200 philanthropic and nonprofit leaders attended the HIP GameChangers conference in Los Angeles on April 27-28, with highlights that included a rigorous plenary discussion with three “game-changing” foundation CEOs moderated by award-winning journalist María Hinojosa, the release of a new HIP report analyzing the root causes of the under-funding of Latino communities, and a surprise visit from U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. The conference was sponsored and hosted by The California Endowment. It was a standing-room only event, with turnout far exceeding goals set by HIP.
María Hinojosa of NPR’s Latino USA moderated Friday’s closing plenary with Sterling Speirn, CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Dr. Robert Ross, president of The California Endowment; Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation; and Diana Campoamor, president of Hispanics in Philanthropy to discuss successes and challenges of increasing diversity in philanthropy. Vega-Marquis emphasized the need for local solutions by listening to families in the communities.
Speirn discussed how the Kellogg Foundation came to embrace racial equity as a core strategy for the foundation within the donor’s original broad mandate. Ross spoke about the importance of transparency, particularly around diversity of staff, trustees, and grantees. Campoamor raised the importance of celebrating Latino givers. Discussion was honest and with Hinojosa at the helm, filled with humor at all the right moments. The Q&A was just as lively as the panel, with one participant asking, “Do we need to occupy philanthropy?”
The conference opened with a presentation by Lawrence T. McGill, vice president for research at the Foundation Center, on the recently released report, “Foundation Funding for Latinos/Hispanics and for Latin America.” McGill provided a framework for thinking about the report as a starting point to gather better data. He also shared slides that put the report in the context of foundation giving explicitly designated to other groups. Giving explicitly designated to women and girls; children and youth; and ethnic minorities have remained relatively stable over the last ten years, whereas giving designated to the economically disadvantaged has risen from around 12 percent of all foundation giving to 30 percent.
Lawrence T. McGill
Following McGill’s presentation, Aida Rodriguez, chair of Management Programs and professor of Professional Practice at Milano The New School of Management for International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy, presented key findings from her new report, “Foundation Funding and Latino Community Priorities: Gaps and Opportunities,” released for the first time that day. She noted that most Latino nonprofits have small budgets, and some foundations see small organizations as high-risk investments. Rodriguez brought a sense or urgency and agency to the room, saying, “Funding small organizations is not a risk. Someone has to be the first to fund a great idea.”
The conference featured several special guests. The Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, made a surprise visit to the conference. She encouraged more collaboration between the government, foundations, and community-based-organizations, and said that cross-sector partnerships are essential for creating jobs for Latinos and other vulnerable communities. HIP honored Diana M. Bontá, the new president of The California Wellness Foundation. Bontá asked the room of GameChangers to dream with her about a better future, a future where health is a human right in the United States.
The rest of the two-day conference was packed with panels of all-stars in the philanthropic, academic, and media sectors. Sandra Vargas, CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation; José Calderón, president of Hispanic Federation; and Nathaniel “Toby” Thompkins, vice president, 21st Century Foundation powered by Tides, offered their responses to McGill’s and Rodriguez’s presentations. Themes of their discussion included a commitment to local initiatives, concerns over the growing wealth gap, and thinking about long-term sustainability.
During a panel on improving education success for Latinos, Frank Alvarez, the president of Hispanic Scholarship Fund, asked if there were any HSF scholars in the room and a dozen hands went up. Tina Gridiron-Smith of the Lumina Foundation riveted the crowd with her moderating of the panel and Mónica García, board president of the LA Unified School District, inspired action with her call, “Standards for all, requires budgets [resources], for all!” Echoing these sentiments, Cindy Rivera Weissblum, president and CEO of the Edwin Gould Foundation, said, “Resourced families spend eight times as much as low income families on enriching their children’s education.”
Transitioning from education, the next panel focused on issues related to Latino men and boys, but quickly the dialogue became about all men and boys of color. The issues cut across cultures, in the words of Nicole Sharpe of the Schott Foundation, “we are talking about the same men and boys.” Luisa Taveras, program officer for the Criminal Justice Fund of Open Society Foundations gave an impassioned and gritty report on the realities of the prison-industrial complex and the fact that schools have become a direct pipeline to prisons. Dianne Yamashiro-Omiof The California Endowment moderated the panel. The panel marked the first of HIP’s formal activities for its new Latino Men and Boys project, made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.
Saturday opened with a plenary on the 2012 election and increasing civic engagement in Latino communities. Cristóbal Joshua Alex of the Ford Foundation talked about how civic engagement can turn a dirt road into a paved one. Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, emphasized the need for stronger leadership and for Latinos to become comfortable with wielding power. María Blancoof the California Community Foundation talked about the potential role community foundations have in civic engagement and why funding advocacy is sometimes resisted by smaller foundations.
Women’s Rights Caucus
Saturday’s activities included interactive discussions in caucuses on Children & Youth, Immigration, Latino Aging, LGBT, Transnational, and Women’s Rights. In these lively conversations, small groups identified specific philanthropic strategies for supporting social change. Some of the groups had such momentum that they made plans with HIP staff to continue the discussions after the conference.
The conference closed with a panel on Latinos in the media and potential synergies between philanthropy and media. Monica Lozano, CEO of La Opinión, moderated and set the tone for the panel commenting on how media is a combination of storytelling and technology. Chris Peña, executive director of NBC Latino, shared a video of his exciting Latino-focused online programing, and also discussed how portrayals of Latinos need to evolve for diversity and depth. Giselle Fernandez of the Trump Group pointed out that Latinos, as the 15th largest consumer economy, have power, and Elizabeth Méndez Berry, a media consultant, asked the audience to not look to just mainstream media for change but to invest in individual reporters on the ground working for change.
Throughout the two-day conference, participants were registered, guided, and assisted by HIP staff and volunteers wearing HIP GameChangers T-shirts, which posited the question, ¿Eres parte del cambio? Throughout the conference, one could hear the answer to this question coming from the seats, the stage, and the walls- Yes!
Much of the conference was about more than change; it was about struggling with the how and who else. How do we increase investments in Latino communities and who, beyond these walls, do we need to help us achieve change? That conversation continues with the rest of HIP’s GameChangers campaign, which proceeds with events in D.C. and Philadelphia in June, and beyond in the fall.