At Community Foundation Sonoma County, we recognize that power is held by decision-makers that do not represent our community’s diversity. As the nation and our county become more racially diverse, the percentage of people of color in nonprofit leadership has not moved in over a decade, remaining well under 20% nationally for Executive Director/CEO roles. Although there is no data on the racial demographics of nonprofit leadership in Sonoma County, a review of just some of the over 3,000 registered nonprofit organizations in our region implies our county does not fare better than the national data.
Empowering and employing emerging leaders of color will help address racial disparities in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. It will also create a more inclusive and equitable community for future generations.
The value of diversity in the nonprofit and philanthropic fields is unquestionable; having staff and leadership that mirrors the population an organization seeks to help is critical in building better connections with clients and fostering creativity and innovation. Additionally, the mismatch in representation can hinder organizations in understanding and addressing racial inequality issues that are present in the community.
In 2015, Community Foundation Sonoma County launched the Latino Leadership Fund. Through the grants we make with this fund (and through our advocacy and support beyond our grantmaking), we seek to cultivate a stronger network of leaders who are equipped with knowledge, skills, and support to create real and lasting change to benefit all residents in Sonoma County, and who are representative of the diverse communities in our region.
We do this from an equity standpoint and through good grantmaking practices. We strive to build trusting partnerships with our grantees and, through general operating support, provide them with the flexibility and empowerment to make decisions. We listen to and learn from our grantees and deeply trust their knowledge and experience while giving them room to test new theories of change.
We also recognize many facets of leadership and many opportunities for service in a leadership role. Our grants through the Latino Leadership Fund focus on:
In recognition that we need more people of color in nonprofit positions of leadership and acknowledging the high attrition rate among Executive Directors of color, we strive to support and partner with emerging leaders in our community, to reduce barriers to their success.
Grantmakers for Effective Philanthropy has observed that restricted dollars are disproportionately given to people of color and other constituency-led nonprofits. This suppresses those grantees’ ability to adequately plan, invest in staff, deepen the impact of their work, and ultimately impact the community. Through our grantmaking, we seek to support organizations rooted in uplifting and empowering the Latinx community, particularly through advocacy and leadership, and to provide flexible support to emerging leaders of color at the forefront of these local organizations.
On The Move expanded their year-long leadership intensive program, On The Verge, to Sonoma County in 2016, with a cohort of 15 emerging Latinx public and nonprofit leaders from the field of mental health. On The Verge focuses on personal, interpersonal, and professional skills, culminating in a community-based project. This dynamic group of leaders sparked the idea of combating issues of stigma, access, culture, and language by creating a center for the Latino community, now known as La Plaza: Nuestra Cultura Cura. On The Verge’s three cohorts were supported by the Community Foundation Sonoma County’s Latino Leadership Fund, in collaboration with the John Jordan Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, St. Joseph Health, and Sutter Health.
Centro Laboral de Graton is committed to advancing and protecting the human, labor, and civil rights of day laborers, domestic workers, and their families. The Latino Leadership Fund supports Alianza de Mujeres Activas y Solidarias (ALMAS), a project that aims to build the individual and collective power of domestic workers in Sonoma County. ALMAS members focus on educating local women on their labor rights and engage in local, statewide, and national campaigns where they have been key spokespersons for domestic workers’ rights. ALMAS is the anchor organization in Sonoma County for the California Domestic Workers Coalition.
Los Cien Sonoma County has emerged as the leading voice for Latino leaders in Sonoma County, with hundreds of members coming together every month to learn about, discuss, and find ways to solve our community issues. The Latino Leadership Fund has provided support to this emerging organization since 2015, as it embarked on becoming a registered nonprofit and formalizing its structure and operations. As they continue to grow, Los Cien strengthens its ability to build people power and increase the priority for prevention by bringing together community leaders and residents to discuss critical issues such as equity, healthcare access, and coverage prevention, immigration, housing, education, and voting.
North Bay Organizing Project launched the Latinx Student Congress, a program supporting emerging Latinx and BIPOC youth leadership by engaging students in political issues that exist for marginalized communities locally, statewide, and nationally. LSC provides local Latinx high school students with leadership training, a mentoring component with Latinx students from Sonoma State University, and opportunities to translate their learnings into action through a local grass-roots campaign. The Latino Leadership Fund also supports the LSC Academia del Pueblo, an intensive two-week summer course to support the development of strong and well-informed Latinx youth in our community. The in-depth curriculum centers around four elements of youth organizing: Hxstory of People’s movements (racial, environmental, gender justice), Community Organizing, Cultural Strategy (arts, music, roots), Healing & Wellness.
Latino Service Providers’ vision is to invest in a community where Latinos are fully integrated into the larger community by having equal opportunities, support, and access to services in their pursuit of a higher quality of life. Latino Service Providers’ flagship program, Testimonios Youth Promotores program, empowers emerging youth leaders to be health advocates within their communities and sets them up on a path of future leadership in our county. Community Foundation Sonoma County’s Latino Leadership Fund has provided general operating support to Latino Service Providers since 2018 and to support the success of their Latina Executive Director in her leadership role.
Leadership Santa Rosa is a program that develops Sonoma County leaders who will help create a spirit of cooperation to resolve community challenges. Since its inception in 1985, more than 800 individuals have graduated from the program and earned a “Master’s Degree in Sonoma County.” LSR is an asset that strengthens professionals’ networks, knowledge, and marketability, but it remains inaccessible to many due to the required tuition fee. Many factors have contributed to a mostly homogenous class year after year, including publicizing the opportunity within existing relationship circles, required support from employers for participation time, and an ever-increasing tuition fee. Even with a partial scholarship offered through LSR, the program is unattainable for many working professionals of color. Community Foundation Sonoma County partnered with Los Cien Sonoma County’s Education Committee to recruit diverse applicants beginning with LSR Class 36, and provide scholarship opportunities to reduce the financial barrier.
Centering Racial Equity for Generational Impact – The Center for Effective Philanthropy
Nonprofits Led by People of Color Win Less Grant Money with More Strings – The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap – Building Movement Project
Reflecting on Leadership Diversity in Today’s Nonprofit Sector – The Center for Effective Philanthropy
The Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap: Flipping the Lens – Nonprofit Quarterly