First, nearly 6,500 nonprofits. Then 822. Then 384. So how does it feel to be one of the organizations left standing on MacKenzie Scott’s latest round of data-driven funding?
“No words. I was hyperventilating,” said Ana Marie Argilagos, president and CEO of Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP).
Like many, Argilagos thought Scott’s summer grantmaking was very generous, and would stand for the year. That made the call a complete surprise that came “out of the blue.”
“Ms. MacKenzie has been watching your work,” she learned. “Her values align with what you’re doing, and she’d like you to do more, faster.”
Argilagos had a little time to discreetly inform her board before the news broke, but otherwise kept things quiet. Then on December 15, she happily shared the details: HIP was receiving a $15 million grant, a figure that Argilagos says is the equivalent of the organization’s entire annual budget if you include grantmaking. They were to “make it last three years.” And, as always for Scott, funding came with very few strings attached—something Argilagos views as a “huge responsibility and stewardship.”
Like the rest of the philanthropic community, IP has been steadily unpacking what nearly $6 billion in grants from a single donor in a year means for the sector, working to understand what’s driving Scott’s giving—both her approach and individual grant decisions—and where it might be headed next.
Scott’s support for HIP, along with a handful of other grantees serving Latinos, stands out for a couple of reasons. For one, Latino communities draw a surprisingly small percentage of U.S. funding—only 1% of overall philanthropic dollars, a number far removed from need. While we did see a surge of funding for a variety of racial justice work over the summer, much of it was focused on structural racism facing Black Americans in response to the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. HIP’s geographic reach also travels outside Scott’s focus on the U.S. in her December round of COVID-relief giving, to Latin America and the Caribbean.
Magnified impacts on Latino communities
In her second round of giving, Scott sought to accelerate support for people suffering the economic effects of the pandemic, and there’s been acute need in the Latino community. Almost 60% reported job loss or pay cuts by April. Fewer than one in six Hispanic workers were able to work from home. And Latinas continue to top the chart on the highest rate of unemployment among women, at 9.1%.
Immigrants are particularly vulnerable. Latinos make up more than half of all immigrant workers. Millions, both documented and undocumented, were excluded from CARES Act support. By April, 6 million foreign-born workers reported losing their jobs. Many of those who remained employed were essential workers, put in the path of increased risk. Congress reports that 66% of Nebraska’s meat processing industry workers are immigrants, for example.
Scott’s giving in support of Latinos
In addition to funding for HIP, Scott’s support for Latino communities takes a number of paths.
In the summer cohort, when the focus was on driving equity, Scott invested in Latino Justice, a legal advocate; Unidos US, a research and advocacy policy resource; and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which arms families with the knowledge and resources to complete advanced education goals.
The December cohort included grants for Latinos experiencing the highest levels of vulnerability and the lowest levels of access to economic capital. Those include Casa de Esperanza, which addresses domestic violence for Latinas in the U.S.; the Hispanic Federation’s Emergency Assistance Fund, which rolled out through more than 250 community-based groups in 26 states and Puerto Rico; LCDC, the Latino Community Credit Union/Latino Community Development Center in North Carolina; and Prestamos CDFI, a division of Chicanos Por La Causa that supports small businesses and job creation.
Hispanics in Philanthropy is a transnational network of grantmakers that works to strengthen “Latinx leadership, influence and equity by leveraging philanthropic resources, and doing so with an unwavering vision on social justice and shared prosperity across the Americas.”
In normal times, HIP focuses on four paths. It mobilizes resources to engage on an institutional level with issues like civic participation, racial and gender equity, and migration. It builds power by increasing representation in boardrooms and c-suites. It activates networks of individual philanthropists to boost Latino communities through traditional and nontraditional paths, like crowdfunding and direct giving. And it harnesses influence and thought leadership to disrupt ingrained bias and negative narratives.
HIP approached COVID-19 the same way as the other needs of its communities: by assessing acute needs, then creating rapid response mechanisms to allow dollars to go where they’re needed most. The COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund provided emergency mini-grants of between $5,000 and $10,000 to current grantees in its Migration and Forced Displacement portfolio. Funds helped frontline migrant-serving organizations support an influx of clients and the rising cost of continuing service. A streamlined application process required only a 250-word written statement or a voice message in Spanish or English.
Other funds spurred by need include a PowerUp Fund to support Latino small businesses, a Farmworker Relief Fund, and a Central American Hurricane Response Fund.
Argilagos says that while she hasn’t had a chance to sit down and make firm plans, Scott’s support will allow HIP to “supercharge” all of that programming, while helping it to build infrastructure and remain agile.
Scott’s first decisions favored strong leaders who were representative of the communities they serve. Ninety-one of the racial equity organizations funded were run by leaders of color; 83% of gender equity groups were run by women, bringing “lived experience to solutions for imbalanced social systems.”
Argilagos, who fits all those bills, walked through the door almost exactly three years ago. Her predecessor had been there almost 30 years. Before that, Argilagos was a senior advisor at the Ford Foundation on urban development strategies, deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a teacher at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and a senior program officer at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Argilagos was drawn to the role during the interview process, when she learned they were looking for a disruptor, revealing that “the board issued a mandate to blow things up, to take it apart and put it back together for the future.”
While work will definitely include COVID-19 relief, Argilagos sees part of her mandate to build the philanthropy of Latino individuals that can support their communities by building businesses and supporting entrepreneurs. “If you don’t have businesses, you don’t have wealth, and can’t engage in giving.”
Overall philanthropic giving to Latino communities stands at roughly $500 million a year. While there’s plenty of room to grow, Scott’s targeted giving is poised to raise the bar by a substantial percentage.
Argilagos acknowledged that while a number of Scott’s investments are reaching embedded members of the community, like YWCA El Paso, HIP is still one of only a few Latino organizations that have so far received direct support. She hopes that will improve in time.