Creating a legacy of giving

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By Tony Banegas, M.P.A.

Photo courtesy of AZCF

“Mi casa es tu casa” is one of the best-known Spanish phrases, or dichos, among Latinos. It may sound corny to some, but I believe it embodies the core beliefs of Latinos. 

Having grown up in a small, rural community in Honduras, I have vivid memories of strangers sharing our home and dinner table because they needed a place to stay for a night or two. I’m sure many of us can relate to that experience, especially when the visitor is a relative, like a tío or abuela. I do not know a Spanish word or phrase for “overstaying your welcome.” Providing food and shelter to those in need is deeply ingrained in us at an early age.

Responses to a 2002 Community Foundation of Silicon Valley survey on giving and volunteering among Latinos repeatedly included the words, “familia, fe, comunidad” (family, faith, community). Family ties, religious traditions and a sense of community were cited as driving factors in volunteerism and philanthropy. 

The same survey showed that Latinos do not see themselves as “philanthropists,” but Hispanics in Silicon Valley give, on average, 3.9 percent of their annual household income to charity, on par with Caucasians (3.8 percent) and double that of Asians (1.8 percent).

Henry A. J. Ramos, who has done extensive research on Latino philanthropy in the U.S., says Latino cultures have a rich and deep history, dating back the 1500s, of informal charity and social giving through family and kin networks. Ramos also found that Latino donors in the U.S. give in informal ways, and usually in small amounts, to religious organizations (especially the Catholic Church but also to evangelical Protestant orders), family members in need, and independent mutualista societies providing charitable services to Latino communities.

Ramos says organized philanthropy, as practiced in the U.S., remains an emerging concept among Latinos because they come from nations where government and churches, rather than private and nonprofit organizations, have traditionally played central roles in mitigating social inequalities.

According to the most recent U.S. Census, Latinos have become the most populous minority group in the country, representing 16 percent of the population. In 2008, the Census Bureau projected that ethnic and racial minorities will become the majority in the U.S. by 2050, and that about one in three residents will be Latino. 

According to a Nielsen report published in May, Hispanic buying power is now worth $1 trillion and is expected to grow another 50 percent in the next five years; Latino households earning more than $50,000 annually is projected to grow at a faster rate than the total number of households; and Latinos have one of the fastest small-business start-up rates of any population segment in the country.

Pew Hispanic Center data show that Hispanics are the largest minority group on the nation’s college campuses, a milestone first achieved last year. In addition to enrollment gains, the number of associate’s and bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics has also reached new highs.

Latinos are also acquiring positions of power and prestige, from the Supreme Court to the halls of Congress, getting elected and appointed to leadership positions across the country.

Given the culture and beliefs of Latinos, coupled with these gains in education and upward mobility, it makes sense to engage Latinos in strategic philanthropy. I believe increased participation in organized philanthropy can help to accelerate Latino engagement and influence in mainstream civic life. 

Locally, I am proud to report the launch of “Latinos Unidos,” an initiative of the Arizona Community Foundation (ACF) to engage Latinos in strategic philanthropy. The goal is to create a model of philanthropy that fosters the giving of talent, time and resources that build on the many assets and inherent strengths of the Latino community. Another promising model is ACF’s two-year-old Latina Giving Circle, which brings together Latinas from different backgrounds to pool resources in support of select causes. The group has decided to support nonprofits in health care, education, immigration and leadership.

Dan, darán, dicen las campanas” was a favorite saying of my grandfather, Valentín Dominguez, referring to his belief that, if you give, someone will give back in return. I also believe that we, Latinos, are givers by nature. Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to establish a legado (legacy) for future generations.

Tony Banegas is a philanthropic advisor with the Arizona Community Foundation. He is also the Honorary Consul of Honduras in Arizona. He can be reached at:

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