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I think most Latinos would agree that at our core, we are a generous people. If a member of our family is in need, Latinos, as a rule, won’t hesitate to help financially or otherwise. Family is central to Hispanic culture, and when it comes to family, our generosity has few limits. Maybe that explains why when it comes to making political donations and writing checks to support actual philanthropic activities, Latinos come up short. Maybe our family takes all we have to give. Or maybe philanthropy is a discipline not many of us have acquired.
I have several politician friends, and whether Republican or Democrat, they each will tell you only a tiny fraction of their contributions come from Latinos. Black Americans make political donations and Jewish Americans do as well, but Latinos don’t. When I interviewed President Barack Obama last year at NAHREP at L’ATTITUDE, I pressed him about politicians not prioritizing issues important to Latino voters. He politely pushed back by saying if Latinos are not aligned in support of Latino issues, how do you expect politicians to care? He didn’t specifically mention political donations, but it was implied. I have friends who would go through a wall for me, but some of those same friends will ghost me if I ask them to write a check for a politician or a philanthropic cause I care about.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog titled “Without Money, Your Ideas Don’t Matter”. In it, I described the way our system works.
Most of us have learned that politics are not driven by ideology, they are driven by money. The same applies to business, media, and even art. We all have ideas of how the world should work. We all have our own vision of justice and fair play – but in our system, an idea without money is just noise.
That sounds harsh, but sometimes the truth is hard to hear. There is a price Latinos are paying for due to our lack of financial participation in both philanthropy and the political process.
It’s not just political. I get approached all the time to support everything from youth sports to the arts. If the cause supports the Latino agenda, I typically try and help as much as possible. Last month I was in Los Angeles for a charity fundraiser. The event was for an educational foundation for Latino youths. I was surprised there were people who showed up, took pictures, had dinner, and didn’t donate a dime. An actor friend of mine, who is pretty well-known, is trying to raise money for a documentary. His documentary tells an important story about a Latino historical figure. He thought he would have an easy time raising money from Latino donors, but that hasn’t been the case thus far. Producers and distributors have quietly been telling him, that if he can’t get Latinos to support the project, why would anyone else care? I must admit some of this dumbfounds me. I get not everyone has the money to make donations, but some of this is basic courtesy. Let me start with this: Don’t go to a charity event or a political fundraiser and not write a check. It’s poor manners. Just politely decline.
At NAHREP I have been proud to see the evolution of our members. People who attend our conferences for the first time are always impressed with how sharp and professional everyone looks and acts. We have set a high bar for professional standards, and I believe we can do the same when it comes to philanthropy. If you have never participated in a fundraiser or made a political donation, and you have a little extra money, I think you should start. Like any prudent investor, you should set a budget for your donations. I would begin by earmarking 2 percent of your income for supporting a cause, or causes, of your choice. Some do 5 percent and others do 10 percent or more. Political donations are not tax deductible, but donating to a 501c3 charity is fully tax deductible. Depending on your tax bracket, as much as half of your donation will come back to you in tax savings at the end of the year. Put your money into things that are making a difference, and have fun doing it. If you believe in a Latino agenda, and if you want to be part of a movement that is creating a new narrative for Latino Americans, philanthropy is an important part of the equation.