Engaging Latino Alumni: Basic Steps

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This post is co-authored with Nelson Bowman III, the Executive Director of Development at Prairie View A&M University and is based on research for our forthcoming book Engaging Diverse College Alumni: The Essential Guide to Fundraising (Routledge, 2013).

Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the nation. Currently, they make up 16.3 percent (50.5 million) of the population and have $350 billion in buying power. Within the realm of higher education, Latinos make up 24 percent of the total student demographic and they have been growing at a rate of 546 percent over the last 25 years.

Although often overlooked by those studying and working within the confines of mainstream philanthropy, in fact, 63 percent of Latino households give to charity. Latinos have a long history of philanthropy, which is often based on a deep belief in God, an obligation to family and friends and deep knowledge of the causes to which they give. Although there are differences among the various Latino subgroups, there are commonalities that cut across these groups as well.

Overall, Latinos prefer hands-on solicitation and cultivation from someone highly respected within their communities. They tend to give funds for emergency assistance, education and to those in their country of origin. Education, in particular, is a ripe area in terms of giving for Latinos, given their increased participation. They are specifically interested in scholarships, organizations that support the treatment of immigrants and artistic and cultural education for youth.

In terms of engaging Latino alumni, many Latino graduates do not give back financially because they do not receive regular communication from their alma mater, especially communications that speak to their interests and cultural references. In addition, Latinos volunteer at a lower rate for alumni events, but when asked why, they noted that they are not asked to help. This lack of a meaningful exchange between Latino alumni and their alma maters, especially over a period of time, leads them to feel disconnected.

As college fundraisers, it is important to be mindful that attempting to contact and engage all Latino alumni is neither possible nor realistic. However, identifying prominent alumni that are established in communities where there is a substantial alumni presence is a great starting point. From there, fundraisers can begin to involve these individuals in discussions with the purpose of sharing the university’s goal of engaging more alumni of color. Fundraisers might also want to request the assistance of prominent alumni in spurring the interest of others. These efforts alone can stimulate a tremendous amount of increased participation among Latino alumni.

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