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For Nonprofits, the Future is Multicultural – and Digital

Jul 27, 2012

By: Laura Morales, Hispanic Media Relations and Business Writer

During the latter part of my years as a Miami Herald reporter, I had to drive by the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts every weekday.

Arsht, 70, a philanthropist and business leader, helped save the venue by donating $30 million in 2008. Its opera house is named after another pair of philanthropists, Sanford and Dolores Ziff, whose names are on buildings all over South Florida. Even in Miami, where Latinos outnumber every other ethnic group, most philanthropists’ names you see on buildings are of Anglo or Jewish descent. I’m sure there must be some buildings here named after Hispanic donors, but I can’t think of any.

I’d never given this much thought until I read this Media Post article about the eroding traditional donor base for nonprofits: aging white Baby Boomers. According to its author, ad exec Jose Villa, nonprofits and foundations, whose incomes have already been battered by the recession, are dreading what Villa calls “the coming demographic donor cliff.”

That’s understandable – at least from the 35,000 ft. view. Despite America’s exploding Hispanic population, accounting for half of all population growth between 2000 and 2011 and a Nielsen prediction that between 2011 and 2016, 60% of population growth will be Latino, donation dollars continue to come from a highly stratified subset.

But that too, is poised to change.

Villa, pointing out that non-Millennial Hispanics’ giving is generally limited to church, remittances to Latin America and support for extended families, recommends that nonprofits focus on reaching – and hiring – Hispanic Millennials. He also prescribes an increased mobile digital presence, as 42% of Latinos do most of their online browsing and networking on mobile phones – and that’s a donor resource that must be tapped.

Great idea. We all know mobile is the future. But why stop with Latinos? As I pointed out in a previous post, half of African-Americans do most of their browsing on mobile phones. Nielsen also reports that Asian-Americans outpace all other groups in smartphone adoption. And, moving into the future, these groups’ digital engagement – particularly through smartphones and tablets – is only going to balloon.

As the country charges on toward ethnic plurality nonprofits would also do well to remember that, even individually, these groups wield considerable purchasing power. In the same post I referenced earlier, I noted that combined Hispanic and African-American buying power stands at $2 trillion. That’s more than enough money to balance the US budget for a year. Add to that Asian-Americans’ economic clout – just over $500 billion now and expected to grow to over $700 billion by 2015 – and we’re looking at a strong potential new funding base that can help non-profits achieve their missions. Demographic donor cliff? I don’t think so.

Who knows? Maybe in a decade we’ll start seeing American buildings adorned with names such as Ramírez or Sengupta or Takahashi. I, for one, would find that refreshing. Multicultural funding is the answer and it’s literally a mobile phone call or text away.

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