Participants at the 2018 Guelaguetza San Jose Festival. Photo: Michael Vi/shutterstock

Earlier this year, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) and the Castellano Family Foundation announced the launch of the LatinXCEL Fund, a $10 million, three-year initiative designed to support Latino-led and Latino-serving organizations in Silicon Valley.

As Inside Philanthropy has previously reported, Silicon Valley is a region with enormous wealth disparities, and while there is a significant amount of philanthropy flowing out of the region, most of that wealth does not go to local community-serving organizations.

This disparity is especially pronounced when it comes to the region’s Latino-led nonprofits. A 2020 report commissioned by CFF found that Latino-led organizations in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are “disproportionately disadvantaged” and feel “largely invisible and irrelevant when it comes to new wealth donors.”

According to 2020 Census data, Latinos account for 18.7% of the U.S. population, yet receive only 1.3% of philanthropic funding. In Silicon Valley alone, they make up roughly a quarter of the region’s population and are expected to reach 1 million in number by 2050. Latino nonprofits, however, remain underfunded.

The LatinXCEL Fund was created as a response to the report’s findings and will attempt to rectify these disparities and encourage greater investment in Latino nonprofits in the area.

Earlier this fall, SVCF announced that the LatinXCEL Fund’s first round of grants, totaling $1.4 million, have gone out to 36 organizations. The grants are designed to help with the organizations’ development, assist with capacity-building and infrastructure needs, and offer unrestricted funding to support work that advances equity and social justice, including policy advocacy and grassroots organizing.

“By investing in Latinx leaders and organizations in Silicon Valley, the LatinXCEL Fund will help advance civic, economic and leadership opportunities designed by and for Latinx communities,” said Nicole Taylor, president and CEO of SVCF, in a press release. She added that she hopes initiatives like the LatinXCEL Fund will have a compounding effect, encouraging others to invest in the region’s communities of color.

The fund has raised a total of $2.3 million to date. Funders include the California Wellness Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Google.org, Sobrato Philanthropies, Sunlight Giving and the California Endowment.

This first round of grantees includes groups doing work across a variety of issues, including the arts, healthcare, economic empowerment and immigrant justice. Just a few recipient groups include the Alliance for Youth Achievement, the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, Opera Cultura, Nuestra Casa de East Palo Alto and the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley (LCSV).

For Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, the executive director of LCSV, the money couldn’t have come at a better time.

“This grant addresses one of the greatest needs in our region as we look toward an equitable COVID-19 recovery—the economic vitality, voice and leadership of Latinas,” Chavez-Lopez said. “The timing is particularly important, as Latinas were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Studies have shown that Latinos as a whole have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. For Latinas, unemployment has been a particular issue during the pandemic. According to the Economic Status of Latinas Report, 28.9% of Latinas in California lost their jobs in 2020. In comparison, 9.4% of white women in California experienced job loss.

LCSV is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to develop and strengthen Latinas’ power through sisterhood, leadership development and civic engagement. Chavez-Lopez added that the funding from LatinXCEL will be used to increase the coalition’s capacity, expand its programming, and advance its work in addressing the economic, gender and political disparities in the region.

For funders, the hope is that the LatinXCEL Fund will help empower Latino-serving nonprofits in Silicon Valley.

As Sandy Herz, president of Sobrato Philanthropies, stated in a press release, “We are deeply inspired by this first, incredible cohort of LatinXCEL Fund grantees and by all of the local partners who have come together to make this initiative possible.”

She added, “There is immeasurable potential in our communities, if we are all willing to step up and reduce barriers to opportunity by investing together in the essential work of those most proximate to the challenges we seek to overcome.”

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