First grants from LatinXCEL Fund boost nonprofit leadership and infrastructure

First grants from LatinXCEL Fund boost nonprofit leadership and infrastructure

Silicon Valley is filled with small nonprofits doing great work – but many of them struggle to build the foundations that would help them expand. Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley (LCSV) is one of these nonprofits. For more than 20 years, a team of dedicated volunteers has kept this organization afloat, making it difficult for the group to expand its capacity and work.

“The impact was happening, the programs were happening – but [our volunteers] would exhaust themselves,” said LCSV executive director Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, recently hired as the group’s first paid staff member. The result was frequent turnover of board members. “We were really looking for a more sustainable model of running an organization.”

Enter the LatinXCEL Fund. Housed at Silicon Valley Community Foundation and created in partnership with the Castellano Family Foundation, the LatinXCEL Fund aims to provide vastly increased funding for Silicon Valley’s Latinx community leaders and Latinx-led nonprofits through targeted, long-term investments.

“Because of COVID and its disparate impacts on the Latinx population, we knew we had to quickly develop ways to increase support for organizations serving those communities,” said Stuart C. Burden, vice president of corporate and foundation relations at SVCF. “We thought, ‘We’re going to need these organizations. We want them to be performing critical functions in the community. How do we put our arms around them and support them?’ The answer was creating the LatinXCEL Fund.”

The LatinXCEL Fund just announced $1.4 million in grants, and the Latina Coalition is one of 36 inaugural grantees.The group will use the funding to expand its programs.

700 Parent Voices members march to the State Capitol on Stand for Children Day, May 2019Members of Latina Coalition’s signature program, ELLA, or Engaged Latina Leadership Activist

Grants for Sustainability

“This grant is going to help us build out a sustainable infrastructure for the organization,” Chavez-Lopez said. The organization plans to enhance its accounting and database systems, enabling it to gather data from the women they serve and track their progress over time. “The grant came at a particularly important time for our organization, because we were really stretching and growing from an all-volunteer organization to hiring our first staff member.”

This type of plan for building sustainable systems is exactly what the funders were looking for in the first round of grants. They wanted to hear from applicants, “What are those things that you really need? Do you need a coach, a thinking partner, training on how to read financials, or HR, or fundraising?” said Manuel J. Santamaria, vice president of community action at SVCF.

Encouraging Professional and Civic Engagement

The Latina Coalition works with women at all stages of their careers, from college to retirement.

“We have a multigenerational cross-section of women who I really define as being leaders inside and outside of the building,” Chavez-Lopez said.“They are leaders in their professional careers but also civically engaged and leaders in the community.”

Encouraging Census participation was a key part of Latina’s Coalition’s work in 2020Encouraging Census participation was a key part of Latina’s Coalition’s work in 2020

The Latina Coalition’s signature program, ELLA, or Engaged Latina Leadership Activist, offers women in college or recent graduates workshops and speakers to help them develop their careers. It also connects them with potential mentors and leadership opportunities.

The coalition also offers Online Power Hours, which give members access to professional Latinas from diverse work sectors; and a variety of community and members-only events, including discussions on advocacy and public policy.

The coalition is funded by individual funders and memberships, as well as some corporate and foundation funders. They have relaunched their website and added capacity for online events, which have allowed the group to reach more people. As they restart in-person events, they are looking at a hybrid format to allow people who can’t come in person to benefit. The LatinXCEL grant will help the Latina Coalition build sustainable programs.

“It’s about being able to touch more women’s lives,” Chavez-Lopez said.

“One of the things that’s special about this fund is that we’re providing unrestricted funding,” Burden said.“We’re  leaving it to the organizations themselves to decide how best to deploy the resources. This is something nonprofits have been asking for for years.”

One goal of the LatinXCEL Fund is to provide networking opportunities for grantees in addition to funding, Santamaria said.  “We want to bring together those organizations we funded to network, connect and learn from each other.”

Additional Resources

  • Contribute to SVCF’s LatinXCEL Fund, a $10 million, three-year initiative created to strengthen Silicon Valley’s ecosystem of Latinx community leaders and nonprofits.
  • Support local organizations in SVCF’s Latinx Giving Guide.
  • Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond, join us in honoring the history, achievements, leadership and resilience of Latinx communities.