An SOS for Latino nonprofits

Decades ago, pioneers in our community founded nonprofit organizations as a way to tackle problems stemming from discrimination and poverty. Many of these institutions have survived numerous challenges, while others have had to close their doors.

These nonprofits provide critical support, such as job training programs, help with obtaining affordable housing and assistance with navigating the complex immigration process.

Our community still needs these and other services. Statistics paint a grim picture: nearly 30% of New York’s Latino community lives below the federal poverty level and in 2011, 40% of Hispanic residents had a difficult time putting food on the table.

Our young people are not doing much better: 63% of Latino students did not graduate from high school in four years and 28% of youths sent to New York’s juvenile detention centers in 2010 were Hispanic.

Because of these and many other challenges that our families still face, it’s imperative that these organizations give more thought to transition and evolving with the times. Budget cuts and shrinking funding streams for community-based institutions are certainly the biggest reasons for the destabilization of Latino nonprofits. However, directors and founders who hold on to control at the expense of not embracing new talent or allowing their organizations to develop are positioning their institutions for failure.

The next mayoral administration must also play a leading role. It must develop a plan to facilitate the survival and success of Hispanic nonprofits. In recent years, we’ve instead seen an effort—by negligence or design—to dismantle Latino nonprofits, as El Diario reports today.

The policies of the next municipal government will be critical for the future of this community and in turn, this city. With this in mind, incoming city leaders should create an independent task force charged with developing a strategy to respond to the challenges that nonprofits face, which include obstacles imposed by government. This committee should also study how funds are distributed, which is too often based on the interests of the most powerful politicians, instead of the need in our barrios.

Latino nonprofits play a critical role in helping our community progress and thrive. To ensure their survival, it’s time for our city to lend them a hand.