$370,000 in HIP Conn. Collaborative Awards Help Grantees Turn Passion to Action

Latino nonprofits in Connecticut are embarking upon capacity-building projects after having been selected recently to receive grant awards as part of the sixth round of grantmaking of Hispanics in Philanthropy’s Connecticut Funders’ Collaborative for Strong Latino Communities.  HIP and its local funding partners selected 17 organizations to receive a total of more than $370,000 in funding.

Grant recipients in Connecticut received one- or two-year awards ranging from $5,000 to $30,000.  Since 2002, through six rounds of grantmaking, the Connecticut Collaborative has distributed more than $2.3 million in funds to 37 Latino nonprofits.  Four local funders have been core partners of the Collaborative in Connecticut, participating in each of the six grant rounds.  HIP officials have expressed their appreciation for  the strong commitment and contributions of these partners: The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the Fairfield County Community Foundation, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund.

“It’s amazing,” said The Latina A.R.M.Y. Executive Director Nancy Roldán Johnson, of the small nonprofit’s second grant from the Connecticut Collaborative.  “The first grant that we received was in 2009 … We were very green and grant-proof, but with a lot of passion and understanding that there was a need in the community for the things we do.

“HIP helped us to strengthen our board and increase governance …” she said. “Thanks to that, we have been able to grow in a number of ways, with funds development, a strategic plan” and empowering the board to help recruit new board members.

The Latina A.R.M.Y. received $25,000 over two years to hire consultants and develop and print materials that will allow the New Haven-based nonprofit to evolve its program and training models with the results of a process evaluation.  In this manner, the group hopes to provide role models and personal life-skills training to smaller groups of girls in a six-session program, rather than just two sessions.  The organization works with young Latinas primarily through the local schools, but now plans to expand through outreach to other public and nonprofit agencies.

In addition to providing a leg-up for small Latino-led, Latino-serving nonprofits, the Collaborative also facilitates engagement with funders in the area.

The effort is “a great vehicle to bring the needs of Latinos to the larger community,” said Senior Program Officer Peter Rosa, of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which has partnered with HIP since before he joined the foundation seven years ago.

The Latino civil sector, he said, “is over-represented in terms of need and certainly under-represented in terms of grants.  And it is better here [in Connecticut] but still overall under-represented in funding.  Those facts helped to bring more attention to those needs.”

Program Officer Jackie Downing, of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, appeared to agree.

“I like working with the other funders to help identify in my area the grassroots and emerging organizations,” said Downing, who has been working with the Connecticut Collaborative for the past two years.  “I think it’s very complementary to our [major grants program]. … I like the capacity-building aspect that HIP focuses on.”

Downing said that the Connecticut Collaborative’s funders have spotted a couple of trends through interacting with applicants and grantees.

“It was nice to see some of the organizations that came in, in earlier processes, to really develop themselves.  You can see the progress,” Downing said.  She recalled that one nonprofit, the Spanish Community of Wallingford, was among those that had not initially qualified for funding with her foundation.

“But they put themselves together with HIP funding,” she said of the Wallingford grantee.  “They used the funding very effectively from the first HIP grant to grow themselves to the second grant.”

She said that the local partners of the Collaborative also noticed that most of the organizations applying for this most recent grant round had similar needs around fund development and board training.

“They started with leaders who had a lot of passion to get it together, but really needed to grow as an operating board … that would be more cost-effective and effective for each organization,” she said.

The Connecticut site of the Funders’ Collaborative is unique in the way that it helps funders, she said.

“We always appreciate working with one another,” Downing said.  “We’re able to share information and see those trends.”

“It’s nice to be able to sit at a table and … be able to learn about those urban centers and to be partnering with Harford and Fairfield [foundations],” she added.

Rosa said more capacity building that targets Latino-led nonprofits is vitally needed.

“It’s sad, when you look around, particularly in Connecticut, we’re very segregated economically as well as racially,” he said.  “The number of Latino organizations has diminished significantly.  The needs haven’t.  You could say that all nonprofits are serving our people.  But there’s something about Latino nonprofits that understand cultural competence and have the talent for the best approaches.”

To augment the impact of Funders’ Collaborative support on Latino-led, Latino-serving nonprofits, HIP provides training and technical assistance by way of grantee convenings and, on occasion, specialized trainings.

Trainings and panels at past convenings have focused on such capacity-building topics as board development, financial management, funding research and funder engagement, grant writing, organizational assessment and strategic planning, strategic partnerships, and others.  In addition to trainings, convenings provide Latino nonprofit leaders the opportunity to network with their peers at other organizations to share successes, challenges and best practices and to discuss possible partnerships.  These events also enable grantees and local funding partners of the Collaborative to connect and learn from each other.

Downing said that HIP’s Connecticut Collaborative would like to grow by welcoming new partners.

“Absolutely, particularly as the Hispanic community in our area continues to grow, so will the needs,” Downing said.  “More funders would allow us to reach deeper into the community.”


Cheryl is an Editorial Consultant with HIP and Adam is a Program Officer in our New York Office