Recent events have compelled nonprofit organizations to change the way they get work done, how they deliver their services, and what they do to achieve a more just and equitable society. So, The Business of Giving has connected with those organizations that are doing this exceptionally well in a segment we call: The Paths Forward. Because there is more than just one way.
Denver: Today we’ll visit with team members at Hispanics in Philanthropy, or HIP. The organization is committed to strengthening Latino communities by increasing resources for the civil sector and increasing Latino participation and leadership throughout the field of philanthropy.
We’ll begin with their CEO, Ana Marie Argilagos.
Ana Marie Argilagos: I have an amazing team and staff. My board, they’re my bosses, but they’re thought partners. So I’m on the [phone] with a board, and they are active in deliberating with me. And we listen. We do a lot of listening. I kicked off when I started, by doing six months of listening tour. I went to like 45 cities in six months really trying to understand what was okay, is the next step for HIP in our evolution? I knew that we had a lot of work that we were grounded in and that we were going to continue, but that there were some work that didn’t need to be continued and other work that needed to be started. And so we’re just very member-oriented, what is necessary.
Listening is a cornerstone of HIP from the CEO to the Board as Inarú and Mechelle explain.
Inarú: So as HIP is celebrating 40 years of our legacy, Ana Marie has celebrated five. And she started off at HIP really setting the tone by going on a listening tour. So she went to our grantee partners across the U.S. and in Latin America. And not just our grantees, but also like our partners across foundations and other funders to get to know like what our community is interested in because as you mentioned, 40 years is quite a long time within the philanthropic sector, so needs change. And the only way to actually get to know what those needs are is by listening and going straight to the source. So she went in person throughout her first year and had one-on-one conversations with our community leaders to figure that out. So I think that was one specific way.
MECHELLE: I also think essential component to our secret sauce is having a listening, supportive, and active board of directors. They support us. They have our backs. There’s not much that, you know, go up to the board, that they turn down or they shun against. We’re really a collaborative unit here amongst the teams, the executive leadership teams, and then the board. So I think that that is a huge component to our secret sauce.
While there is organizational rigor, there is also room to get to know and learn about your colleagues as revealed by Mariella and Inarú.
MARIELLA: That word is being flexible with the grantees, listening to them, to what they need, but also knowing each other, not just knowing what the grantees need or what the funders need, but also knowing each other, how we can get to know in this retreat or in… I have one anecdote about my first date. It was almost my first week in HIP and I started in a baby shower. And it was like a one-hour activity in Zoom, like almost everything lately. And it was really nice because you started to know the culture, like the different… it is not just work that is really needed, but it also to get to know each other in a different way, in a funny way.
Inarú: But some of the intentional spaces that I think our leadership has made it a point to create, include spaces not just for like staff meetings that are a little over an hour long, but they are spaces like Mariela mentioned where we celebrate more informal things, like we actually had in the last few years quite a few of our staff become new mothers. And so we found ways within our own, I say, culture, but Latinos are very diverse, we’re not a monolith, but across our cultures to incorporate some of that through baby showers or through our celebrations in summer and in winter, celebrating some traditions. So sharing recipes or sharing some advice on what works on becoming a new mother, those intentional spaces to have informal connections, I think, really allow us to nurture and celebrate the diversity within our own staff.
There are a number of different aspects of the culture but it’s the diversity of HIP that is particularly attractive to Mariella, Jacob and Cesar.
Mariela: Okay, I’m going to add a different thing, but I think that is one of our secrets, that we are a diverse community that embrace diversity. And in our diversity, that we complement each other, that we are from different places, from different backgrounds, different careers, but also that we feel we are doing important things. And that we feel also important for the organization, that if we are not part of this, we cannot do it. So it is like feeling important and also complementing each other in our diversity.
Jacob: I think if you look at the thematic areas in which HIP overall is working in, the diversity there and the variance across those areas, everything from gender to migration, to power building and injustice, the ability for such a relatively small organization as HIP to be able to work across so many different areas, that in and of itself is an accomplishment that has been cultivated and honed very well over the course of 40 years.
Cesar: For me, if someone was looking to join HIP, I would say definitely the culture of diversity would be key for me. Definitely second would be the ability to grow professionally and holistically, that would be number two. And then number three, the sense of family. I think you can really feel that in the staff retreat that we had and anytime we get together. So we have the, as we say in Spanish, the pachanga, the party, so that’s always fun.
Mechelle loves knowing how her work is integral to the organization’s mission while Cesar loves “The All Hands on Deck” spirit at HIP.
Mechelle: Well, unlike a lot of other accounting teams and companies, we work collaboratively hand in hand with a lot of teams. So supporting teams with their budgets, making sure that they have everything that they need to submit to funders and to re-grant. So I know that without my contribution, data and numbers, they wouldn’t have what they need. So that in itself reminds me of what my purpose is and I know that I belong. And I don’t feel like I’m just behind a computer, cutting checks and recording data. I know that I’m heavily involved in a lot of the decisions on whether or not we should be spending this much here.
CESAR: And when I came to HIP, I think what was most satisfying is being part of what we call the familia, where everyone was like having your back. It wasn’t like other places where they just give you like write this grant and you figure it out. But everybody jumping in, the migration team was jumping in, the Inicio Ventures team was jumping in. Everybody was there to help you. They’re like, you need anything? Because it is a lot of hard work and I think to your question earlier like, how do I know that we make a difference and that we get fresh? Well, I think that all of us, Ana Marie also, has a grassroots organizing background. All of us keep a pulse on what’s going on and what our communities are experiencing.
Finally, 2 examples of Hispanics in Philanthropy at work. Inarú addresses Decision Making and Jacob speaks to Innovation.
Inarú: So an example I’ll give specifically, in our conference in Miami last year, we were getting some signals to not have the conference in Miami, to completely pull out because of policies that were affecting specifically our Latino communities in the area. And we actually made the decision. Ana Marie, and this speaks to her leadership and our leadership team in general, reached out to folks in the philanthropic sector and got a pulse of what is actually happening in Florida and what should be this decision. It’s a pretty big one to make and we decided that it was more important to stay and have our conference and really make it a point to show that it is a time to further invest in our communities and not to pull out. And that was from direct feedback across our network of what we should do. And it was a very proactive step that we did.
We also went ahead and not just had the conference, but invested in. We launched our Power Building & Justice initiative that was very focused based on data on where the need was to invest across the south and southwest in Latino communities and bolster that movement there of folks that really just needed our support in that time and not for us to shy away. So I would say listening and being proactive with the information that you get if you want our secret sauce.
JACOB: But on our programmatic side, that’s where you can really see that the culture behind HIP is one that encourages and appreciates innovation and trying things out and getting feedback to quickly continue to iterate on those programs. So on the Inicio Ventures team, we have our Inicio Awards events. And so that’s a unique designed day that we replicate across what we love to call rising regions around the U.S. And we do four of those every year. And then in addition to that, we have our fellows program, and that fellows program is for graduate students across the United States. And that program is meant to help give them a sense of what the overall venture capital ecosystem is like, and to help them make a pivot into the venture capital world as well. And so that in and of itself as a program, has taken on three different iterations in the span of three years.
And so that’s one prime example of trying out a program structure, getting feedback, revamping, and making sure that it is providing the level of impact to the level of curriculum education and the level of hands-on experience that can really make a difference in a graduate student and now in fact mid-career professional’s life as well.
I want to extend my thanks to all those who participated in this piece: Inarú Meléndez Vázquez Jacob Lefker Mariela Solórzano Aguilar Mechelle Allen Cesar Boc.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Ever-Changing World, will be released later this year.Listen to more The Business of Giving episodes here. Subscribe to our podcast channel on Spotify to get notified of new episodes. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and on Facebook.