7 Tips for donors who want to successfully support Latinas in leadership

Written by: Denise Padín Collazo

Date: January 14, 2021

I invite donors to act as boldly as the Black and brown women whose bodies are the front lines of change.   

In Georgia, long before the 2020 elections were part of the national news cycle, Nse Ufot, Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown, Phyllis Hill and many other Black women saw the threat that was coming for their families.   

They activated their vast networks, at first with very few resources to support the work, and they did the slow, tedious work of building a base of everyday people.   

Their successful efforts will reverberate to benefit millions of families. In Arizona and Nevada, Latinas including Alejandra Gomez, Alicia Contreras and Denise Lopez changed the course of history, generating record election turnout numbers.  

Yet still too few foundation dollars are being devoted to centering the leadership of Black and brown women.     

My colleague Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and I met in 2003 when we were both organizers in Florida.   

In an early conversation about my upcoming book Thriving in the Fight: A Survival Manual for Latinas on the Front Lines of Change, he encouraged me to include a list of tips for donors who want to support the leadership of Latino women. Most of these tips also apply to investing in leaders of color more broadly. 

Here are 7 tips to help you be wildly successful at supporting the leadership of Latinas.   

1. Trust Black and brown women. Nikole Hannah-Jones reminded us in The New York Times 1619 Project that “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” Black women have been calling our country to live into its fullest self since before we were a country. When in doubt, lean on the wisdom of women who self-identify as Afro-Latina, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic – all women of color who are closest to the community.  These are the people who will continue the fight when no one is looking.   

2. Don’t wait for us to call you. We’re usually overworked and very busy. Reach out to us by phone or text and be willing to talk to us while we’re on the move (or with kid noise in the background). I believe that Black and brown women bear outsized responsibility both at work and at home. We often don’t have the commensurate resources, recognition or room for reflection to get the job done. Yet, we usually get the job done anyway. Sometimes this happens at the cost of our health, psyche, careers and families. That is why it’s critical to deeply invest in our leadership.   

3. Invite us many times. If you reach out to us and you don’t hear back, it’s because we’re usually overworked and very busy. If you invite us to present at a conference and we say no, persist. I know many Latinas who have declined invitations to speak or be honored for their work because of the lessons we’ve been taught about humility and leading from behind without expecting any recognition or reward. It’s also a huge sacrifice every time we leave our chosen families and families of origin to attend ‘extra’ events even if they’re virtual.   

4. When we do call you, we’ve needed your help for a long time. Listen intently to what we need, and do your best to help us out. Sometimes when you are used to doing your work with limited financial resources, it becomes hard to imagine what it would be like to have lots more money. I have watched white women leaders advocate for 3 times the resources as their Latina sisters for the exact same work.   

5. Make it easy for us to access funds. Remember, many of us have complicated relationships with money. When you come from poverty, asking for money is terribly  As an example, instead of asking a close family member for a loan to support my exorbitant Harvard tuition, my parents chose to rent out their house and go live with family, work overtime, deliver Domino’s pizza and damaged their credit. Do your best as a donor to make it simple for us to access resources.   

6. Give us other ways to communicate with you.If you find that we are delaying at the point of the process where we need to submit something to you in writing, it’s likely we worry that our writing isn’t good enough. So instead of sending it over, many of us will wring our hands and avoid. To combat this, consider accepting information in many modalities: PowerPoints, YouTube videos, listening into a meeting via phone, events, phone conversations, newspaper articles, etc. Or, you could even offer to pay for a writing consultant or firm. Remember, worship of the written word is one of the symptoms of white supremacy, so do your best to break down that norm in your role as a donor.   

7. Ask us how we are investing in our own development and consider paying for it in some way. Always take a moment to ask Latinas and women of color more broadly how they’re investing in their own development. So often, women stay so busy doing the work that we put our own needs last. Ask what they’d love to learn but haven’t had time for. Seek additional ways to support the leadership of women. A prestigious K. Kellogg Foundation fellowship includes funds for self-care that can be used for things like acupuncture and massage. Before COVID-19 hit, the Ford Foundation began investing in convenings that can be built around radical self-care. These are the kinds of supports that can rejuvenate Latinas and all women of color. Ask about the organization’s leave and parental benefits policies, and ask how they’re preparing themselves and their employees for retirement. There are many ways to support the development of Latinas. Sometimes we’re too busy to imagine what could be. 

This country is in a moment that requires accountability. I am grateful for groups like NCRP who are calling for greater accountability for donors who are seeking to do the most good. By following these 7 steps, funding partners can help create environments in which women of color thrive. When Black and brown women thrive, we all thrive.  

Denise Collazo is a social justice leader, mentor to fellow women of color and family work integration innovator. She is senior advisor for external affairs and director of institutional advancement at Faith in Action, the nation’s largest faith-based community organizing network. Pre-order copies of her book before February 23, 2021 here. Net proceeds from the sale of the book will go to a fund for Latina community organizers that is administered by Latina community organizers.