Group of Brown and Black people working together and talking happily.
Image credit: Ridofranz on

This February, the Hispanic Federation—the largest Latinx umbrella organization in the United States—hosted a first-ever summit on the state of Latinx nonprofits. The event celebrated how far Latinx-led and Latinx-serving nonprofits have come in recent decades and a call to action for the philanthropic community, which has left many Latinx nonprofits underfunded and underrecognized.

The Hispanic Federation, based in New York, has grown to represent over 650 organizations across 42 US states and territories. Those organizations, of course, range in size, scope, and mission. Yet the Hispanic Federation president and CEO Frankie Miranda says that many share similar accomplishments and challenges.

“They are the people that understand what is needed in their community.”

Speaking at the summit, Miranda described Latinx nonprofits as the backbone of Latinx communities across the country.

“We are always rooted in communities. We understand that these organizations are the experts. They are the people that understand what is needed in their community,” said Miranda, making a case that these organizations are often overlooked by the wider philanthropic community.

“Everybody has their rightful place in the ecosystem of philanthropy,” said Miranda. “But at the end of the day, we need to listen to our community-based organizations to know what exactly they need, because they are the ones that have the pulse of the community.”

The State of Latinx Nonprofits

Many Latinx-led and Latinx-serving nonprofits are small, lean organizations on the “front line” of communities where they operate, to use a phrase that came to prominence during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Throughout the COVID crisis, these nonprofits rallied to serve their communities in myriad ways—often without any additional or special support, including federal funds made available to larger, more robust nonprofits.

Being overlooked, the Hispanic Federation’s Miranda tells NPQ, is an all-too-common problem for Latinx nonprofits, which tend to fly under the radar of philanthropic and federal grantmakers.

“They have the population, they have the expertise, they have the cultural competency. But often what we hear is that they are left out of many grant opportunities because they don’t look the way that many of these funders are looking at organizations.”

Miranda notes that many Latinx nonprofits made new inroads with the communities they serve through the pandemic, increasing their reach and strengthening their connection to those communities.

“These organizations have fed people, kept people in their homes, kept people working to keep people healthy. But now, what are we going to do with that network of care?” asks Miranda. “What we’re seeing [in] the state of Latino nonprofits right now is that we’re ready to go for the next level, but we need support from everybody.”

Raising the Profiles of Latinx Nonprofits

“There continues to be an idea that the sector is somehow disposable.”

Standing between funders and often-overlooked Latinx nonprofits is the Hispanic Federation, whose mission includes helping connect the former with the latter, and elevating the profiles of grassroots organizations that struggle to access philanthropic resources and opportunities.

“I think that one of the biggest problems that many of our organizations have, especially when it comes to government funding, is the reimbursement structure,” the Hispanic Federation’s Miranda says. “These are lean organizations that are working really hard and having high impact, but they are unable to risk reimbursement structures that tend to be obscure, that tend to go back and forth depending on the political environment. [Those structures] tend to be something that is very intimidating for many of them.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, for example, many Puerto Rican organizations that stood ready to assist residents were not incorporated as 501c3 organizations, Miranda notes, making them effectively invisible to traditional funders.

Into this space of uncertainty and confusion, the Hispanic Federation intervened, funding organizations itself and bringing them to the attention of the greater philanthropic community.

“With the Federation coming in and highlighting their work, making sure these organizations got funded, many other funders came in,” says Miranda. “It’s like if you’re being funded by the Hispanic Federation, that means you’re a legit organization.”

Much of the Hispanic Federation’s work involves helping grassroots organizations become more visible to donors. But the Federation is also a major funder of these organizations itself, having funded more than 500 organizations with over $30 million between 2020 and 2022 alone.

But the Hispanic Federation, Miranda emphasizes, cannot do this work on its own.

“It should not be that the Hispanic Federation is right now the biggest Latino-led and Latino-focused grantmaker in the United States,” says Miranda. “We need more organizations, more funders, to really look at this model and be able to try to replicate it, working with the Hispanic Federation or working with this network.”

And such investment will pay dividends, Miranda says, in terms of the outcomes these small nonprofits can deliver to their communities.

“Corporations constantly are talking to us about return on investment. There’s no better return on investment than these organizations, the way that they have been able to prove over and over, through the crisis, how effective they can be,” says Miranda. 

“The main message that we’re trying to send to our organizations is to continue to work in coalition.”

Danger of Being Left Behind

Thanks in part to the Hispanic Federation’s advocacy and mobilization around the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the Federation’s organizations were able to receive funding they had previously been unable to access.

But with the pandemic fading from the headlines, Miranda worries that the same organizations the Federation has helped to connect with funders will be forgotten again.

“The work is not nearly done. And I have to say, I am concerned that while these organizations continue to do amazing, amazing work there continues to be an idea that the sector is somehow disposable,” says Miranda. “It almost feels that we want to go back to pre-pandemic times, and that is not okay.”

While the Hispanic Federation continues to advocate for its network, it remains hard at work continuing to build up that network and maintain its robustness.

“The main message that we’re trying to send to our organizations is to continue to work in coalition,” says Miranda. “There is an incredible, incredible anxiety of what is going to happen in the upcoming election. We want the organizations to be able to organize, to be connected to one another.”