The Give: Colorado’s Ronald Montoya Invites Replication of Latino Community Foundation
Denver’s Ronald E. Montoya is a successful businessman who is living his dream of helping others. “Whatever God’s given me, I owe it back,” he says. “So I think it’s very important for me to do what I do.” And what he does is to serve as a role model for Latino philanthropy. The entrepreneurial Coloradan is a board member of the Rose Community Foundation and board chair of the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado and the Mexican Cultural Center, and was a member of the advisory committee for HIP’s Latino Age Wave assessment and report. He is the owner of Innov8 Solutions USA, a company that supplies copper cable and related services to energy providers and other industries, and chairs the board of Linkmont Technologies. He also is chairman of Solera National Bank, “a community bank that supports minority communities” and that he says has grown dramatically since it was started just four years ago. “As a kid I always felt that a lot of people looked up to me, and I always tried to be a role model of sorts,” said Montoya, who is 71. “I always was concerned with ethics and doing the right thing.” Montoya was born in Boulder. His father was a packinghouse butcher. After his mother died of appendicitis during childbirth when Montoya was just two years old, his father moved in with the toddler’s grandparents in Denver. He was raised by his grandparents and grew up like another sibling to his three aunts and two uncles. Montoya later served in the Far East in the pre-Vietnam era U.S. Army, from 1960 to 1963. After returning to the States, he renewed a friendship with Naomi, a Santa Fe native who grew up in Denver. They started dating after he got out of the service, and they were married three years later, when he was 26. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado and later a doctorate in law from the University of Denver in 1977. Mentors guided him along the way. He recalled one boss for whom he managed floral operations in a full-time job while he was going to school full time during his early family years. Math Brunner took him under his wing, offered friendship and made Montoya’s family part of his own family. Montoya and Naomi, now his wife of 45 years, have two sons and four grandchildren. He said both sons work with him and live less than a mile from the Montoyas’ Lakewood home, outside of Denver. Montoya said that he and Naomi decided early that they wanted to contribute to their community, and he credits her as an angel for supporting him in making that dream come true. “I believe that, when you can, you give of your time and, when you can, you give of your treasures,” he said. “I can’t even count all the nonprofit boards I’ve been on, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them.” His active participation has also helped him to gain insights into U.S. philanthropy over the past 45 years. What changes have you seen in the field of philanthropy as it touches Latino communities? RM: When I started, most of the boards didn’t have any Latinos. … I hope I have been able to contribute in a positive way. … Over that time, there’s been a tremendous change in our community and not only do we have Hispanics but Blacks and other ethnic groups. Many of us think of the early years as [our having participated as] trailblazers and trying to set a professional example. I think it’s done a lot for our community in the form of respect, in the form of inclusion and in the form of economic development. As we see today, the demographics are very clear. … We are a vital element in our community today, and by ‘this community,’ I mean Colorado. I think our community respects the people who have been doing this work and certainly it feels good that they recognize that you have put a lot of time and effort to make these organizations successful. What do you think about the Foundation Center report, prepared in cooperation with Hispanics in Philanthropy, which found that for a decade funds from U.S. philanthropy specifically targeting Latinos and Latin America has remained stable at one percent? RM: Certainly I would not take issue with that, but in Colorado we believe we are much better than what those statistics say nationally. They recognize that the Latino community is an integral part of this community. The foundations that I’m involved in… have a serious focus in the Latino community. The percentage would be much higher [in Colorado] than it is nationally. So how might philanthropy nationally learn from Colorado’s successes? RM: I think that Latinos are givers… but we don’t necessarily organize our giving. By establishing the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado, we said, ‘Here is a Latino organization to help Latino-led and Latino-serving nonprofits.’ This was put together in a way that utilized our own resources–our personal resources–and we were giving the opportunity to match not only our own funds but by HIP [which has provided matching funds for donations to the Latino Community Foundation]. Rose Foundation, The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation and Western Union Foundation have been integral partners in covering our administrative costs so every dollar we raise is used for nonprofits and for serving the Latino community. Our whole organization is geared to help them to do a better job. We provide resources for training; we provide technological equipment for these organizations. We are providing resources to help them to do a better job in their focused community. This model is a good one for replication… Just in the last four years, we’ve given away $875,000–and I believe it will be a million dollars soon, all given to the community with no administrative costs [coming from community contributions]. The rec center in Capulin, Colo., with wonderful training opportunities to teach English as a Second Language, General Education Diploma classes, computer training and employment training, had to close down the first of November and reopen in April because they didn’t have a furnace. By providing a $30,000 grant for a furnace, they are open year-round now. If you can model something and have it led by Hispanics for Hispanics, that is where we want to go and to continue doing that into the future. What is the relationship between Rose Foundation and The Latino Community Foundation of Colorado? RM: Rose has given us [the Latino Community Foundation] the office, the equipment and the facilities, and they help pay for our executive director. I want to give a lot of credit to Rose Foundation because the organization is Jewish, and Jewish culture is very giving. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to the Jewish community for its commitment to all communities and, in this case, to the Hispanic community. Are there issues you believe that U.S. philanthropy should consider in developing new ways to invest in the Latino civil sector as a way of moving the whole country forward? RM: I think replication is good. There are two or three other Latino foundations around that are doing good work. We need to help each other. We need to help other locales in doing programs. I also think the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is doing great work in training and educational opportunities. I think it’s important that national organizations take on a bigger role in providing resources to our communities. All they need to do is read and understand what the demographics are. This country is going to be ‘Latinoized’ very soon. They need to understand that Hispanics are going to take a leadership role in this country. And they need to understand that the more we help the Hispanic community to be successful, the greater our country will be. I think the challenge is communication and ensuring that organizations that want to do this have the advice and counsel and talk to the organizations that have been involved in this–not just Colorado groups, but the Hispanic organizations nationally who have been involved in this. I think that training of the workforce and workforce literacy is an important element, and I think that from my perspective you provide people the opportunity to support themselves and contribute to the Hispanic community by providing resources, by providing training to help people develop. What would you suggest for Latinos wanting to get into philanthropy? RM: Organize yourself, become involved in nonprofit organizations. Ensure that you are part of the community. You may or may not have the financial resources to support, but you have the time and talent, and I think that’s a very critical piece. Is there anything you would like to add? RM: No one can do this kind of participation unless you have tremendous support from your spouse. My wife has been the angel in my life because she has allowed me the luxury of spending thousands and thousands of hours in time and money to engage in our passion to take time to give something back. You might say it is our legacy; it is what we chose to do many, many years ago. She’s a trouper, and she definitely spends a lot of time doing a lot of the things that I have to do and going to events that I go to, and participating in many of the nonprofits that we are involved in.