Jan 25, 2024 - News

New fund to help Latino-led groups boosts Texas nonprofits

Illustration of a person stepping up stairs made of stacks of cash.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More money and mentorship are headed to Texas nonprofits that are often left out of traditional philanthropic funding mechanisms.

What's happening: ACT 4 SA, a nonprofit focused on police accountability in San Antonio, is among the inaugural participants in the Valiente Fund, a program to help grassroots groups that are led by and serve Latinos.

  • The Valiente Fund is housed within Way to Rise, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group that funds organizations in the South and Southwest focused on increasing civic engagement among marginalized groups.
  • The new fund is supporting four other Texas-based organizations besides ACT 4 SA.

Why it matters: A lack of access to funding and underrepresentation has made it difficult for Latinos to rise in these spaces.

Details: The program was created partly because research shows that most organizations run by Latinos and Black people receive a tiny percentage of philanthropic funding.

  • Just 11% of multi-million dollar grants from 2010-2014 went to organizations led by people of color, per a 2020 report.
  • "It was clear that we needed to build their capacity so that they could have broader reach in a quicker way and position themselves to be recipients of philanthropic and investment dollars," says Maria Alegria Rodriguez, Valiente Fund's executive director.

Context: Organizers behind ACT 4 SA helped to put two charter amendments on San Antonio city ballots. Voters did not pass either.

  • Proposition A, the sweeping question on last year's ballot that sought to reform a range of local criminal justice policies, was decisively rejected by voters.
  • Proposition B, placed before voters in 2021, would have stripped the police union of its right to collectively bargain with the city. The vote failed narrowly.

Of note: Last year, ACT 4 SA released a dashboard of data about San Antonio Police Department officers who have been fired or suspended over the last decade.

Zoom in: With the funding and support from the program, ACT 4 SA is planning to collect more data about people's experiences with the police — especially among the Hispanic community in San Antonio, Jade Pacheco, community builder with ACT 4 SA, tells Axios.

  • Ananda Tomas, executive director, is also looking forward to making connections and learning from peers through the accelerator program.
  • ACT 4 SA is a Black-led and founded organization.

Plus, the accelerator funding can help ACT 4 SA cover its basic bills through at least the first quarter of the year, Tomas says.

  • That will allow the nonprofit to focus on taking advantage of the mentorship and networking opportunities that are vital to growing any organization — especially groups that are traditionally left out of big-money philanthropic efforts.

What they're saying: "It's not that we can't get there, but somebody has to fund us and teach us in the in-between to get there," Tomas says.

State of play: Tomas officially launched ACT 4 SA in 2021, employing just herself.

  • It's since grown to three full-time and three part-time staffers.

The bottom line: Now that she's scaling the organization, Tomas wants to focus on building a workplace and keeping in compliance with business regulations. Those are things that, if not followed, can sink some nonprofits that don't have the resources to learn otherwise, Tomas says.

  • "Often you don't need to invent the wheel, because so much amazing work is happening around the country, you just don't hear about it," Tomas says. "This is a way to hear about it."

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