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Latino Donor Alchemy: Building bonds with a base of largely untapped donors in the US

Photo by: Jon Tyson

Even before Covid-19 and the BLM Movement’s most recent momentum, shifting trends in consumer expectations, attitudes and options have been increasingly impacting non-profit fundraising.

First, consumers are expecting brands to state, and live up to, their purpose and CSR goals. This means that purchases made with these mission-driven for-profit brands can scratch a conscious consumer’s “donation itch”. Second, online and crowd-sourced fundraising have split the donor dollar further than ever before. National c3’s now directly compete with both hyper-local efforts and immediate responses to global crises (think of the donor outpouring around the Syrian refugee crisis and Haiti’s earthquake recovery).

New donors, loyal donors, are difficult to find.

What does this have to do with Latinos, and what’s this about “alchemy”? Glad you asked.

Latinos make up 18.5% of the American population, will hit $1.9 Trillion in spending power by 2023, and Latino college degree attainment is on a steep rise - bringing with it increased household income and upward mobility. Furthermore, one recent study found that among Latinos, Non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans and Asian Americans, Latinos are most interested in hearing from non profits and are twice as likely to donate if simply asked to do so.

Black and Latino generosity has been measured and proven.

As you can see below, Black and Latino families contribute a larger share of their wealth to charity than Non-Hispanic Whites.

But here’s the rub! Latinos are not asked for donations as frequently as other groups. There is a willingness to give from this community. They’re waiting to be seen, to be engaged, to be asked. And yet, they’re largely ignored.


A master class in authenticity, education, and playing the long game in donor base building.

Nonprofits who pay attention to the level of awareness among Latinos for the issue they are solving, and work to authentically engage the community, are best positioned to earn this loyal donor base.

The best case study to share is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital - I speak with some bias, as I did work for ALSAC (the fundraising arm of St. Jude) during and after college, and still find every chance I can to support the hospital. When St. Jude was founded in 1962, there was no Child Cancer Awareness Month to lean on for education. Childhood cancer was little understood, and there were no massive national efforts to find cures and save children as the St. Jude mission currently states. Instead, Danny Thomas and a group of supporters took it upon themselves to create a hospital that accepted children of all races, religions and family income levels, and offered medical care at no cost to the patient. Their work was inclusive, community-oriented, generous, immigrant-founded, and the need was clear and urgent.

As St. Jude grew, they brilliantly wove in nuanced multicultural messaging. To engage Latino donors, they went to media outlets they knew to be Latino watering holes. In 2006, they launched a partnership with Univision to form the annual Promesa y Esperanza Radiothon which brings in millions in donations the week of the event (nearly $5 million during the 2019 event alone), along with recruiting a stable base of recurring monthly donors from across the country. Since its start, the St. Jude/ Univision partnership has raised more than $75 million dollars.

To grow the partnership year over year, St. Jude deeply engages with the talent, radio and TV producers, community managers, and the staff of Univision to build deep knowledge of the cause and grow commitment from the media company. What results is an enthusiastic education and awareness campaign filled with genuine excitement as talent across the country invite the Latino community to become an Angel of Hope for kids in need. Having worked at Univision as well (yes, I know…. I’m very close to this), I can tell you that radiothon season brought a ton of work for all involved, but they were some of the most rewarding days all year.

This partnership is just one of the many efforts St. Jude makes to engage Latinos. They've broadened the talent base engaged at Univision to include bilingual and crossover artists like Becky G who can better capture young, English-dominant Latinos. They operate national Point of Sale fundraising campaigns that employ cultural nuance in Latino neighborhoods. ALSAC itself has a robust team of multicultural specialists on their roster who they trust to know their communities best. They recruit experts (like Black//Brown's own Jesus Chavez) to serve as advisors.

And in case you’re wondering just how meaningful this long-term commitment to education is? See the below ranking of how donors prioritize giving….. Draw your eye to the third group from the left, “Children’s Charities”, green bar.

All of this is to say that in order for the non-profit sector to fully realize trends in both US demography and support evolving fundraising dynamics, there must be investment:

  • Investment in diverse minds during program development to ensure Latino community needs and perspectives are considered,

  • Investment in discovering organic engagement points with Latino communities (more than a language-based strategy),

  • Investment in marketing teams with Latino experience, and partnerships who can lend authenticity,

  • Investment in understanding the motivations of both immigrant and US born Latinos, especially as they relate to language… Public Service Announcement:

Prioritizing a Latino donor base is a long term strategy that will pay dividends. Among all racial and ethnic groups, Latino donors are the youngest, and most interested in hearing from nonprofits. They say they give spontaneously, especially in response to disasters. Latino donors, particularly young ones, are looking for ways to engage and give to those in need.

For those nonprofits ready to recognize Latino donor potential, and offer to authentically engage them in dialogue, there is a committed donor base that awaits.

If you’re interested in how your non-profit can create or grow a diverse donor pool, let the team at B//B know.

If you’re interested in learning more about Michelson Philanthropies, please visit Michelson Found Animals (Animal Welfare), Michelson 20 Million Minds (Access to Education, Anti-Recidivism) and Michelson Medical Research Foundation (Forward Thinking Medical Research) to learn more.

Strategist. Advocate. Non-Profit Executive. Builder of a female future. Denisse Cobián-Tobler is a marketer with a demonstrated history of delivering results. Her expertise spans multicultural marketing, brand strategy and media strategy, with an instinct to create positive change. She has BA's in English and Communications, and an incurable curiosity that drives her to learn every day.

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