The Greater Boston Latino Network (GBLN), which includes the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council, recently commissioned one of two studies to assess the status of Latinx-led nonprofits in Boston and to better understand the challenges facing this sector.
GBLN, along with Amplify Latinx—a non-partisan convener building Latinx economic and political power in Massachusetts, jointly released two studies earlier this month that also highlighted the critical role that Latino Community Based Organizations (CBO) play in supporting the city’s growing Latino community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These organizations and their leaders have taken a first-responder role during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, requiring many Latino nonprofits to pivot and provide basic human services and a critical safety net within their communities,” said the report.
According to the reports, there are 80 Latino nonprofits in the Commonwealth that focus on serving Latino residents, a demographic projected to reach 15.3 percent of the state’s population by 2035. These 80 Latino organizations constitute less than one percent of the state’s 9,223 non-profit organizations identified in a 2014 inventory of all nonprofits in Massachusetts. The City of Boston has the largest number of Latino organizations at 37 but the organizations’ average of net resources is less than $4 million.
“One out of every five Bostonians identifies as Latinx, and 43 percent of public school students in Boston are Latinx. But many people still think of Boston demographically along a Black/white binary,” said Karen Chacon, Co-Chair of GBLN. “Our report addresses this social reality and confirms the need to recognize Latinx-led and Latinx-serving nonprofits as vital anchor organizations.”
While Latinx-led nonprofits and their central contributions to Latinx communities and overall civic life are impressive the reports found that many Latinx organizations remain invisible to many power brokers and philanthropy in Boston and the state.
The reports found that existing Latino organizations are struggling with financial stability as funding remains sparse with less than two percent of philanthropic dollars being directly invested in Latino-based organizations. Ninety-seven of the total net assets of Latino organizations are concentrated in just six cities in Massachusetts–Boston, Chelsea, West Springfield, Lawrence, Holyoke, and Worcester–while the population that Latino nonprofits serve is swelling and requires more services.
“In spite of contributions critical for the well-being and economic mobility of the Latinx community and Boston as a whole, the sector of Latinx-led community-based organizations is facing enormous challenges that, if not resolved, can threaten the very existence of many of its organizations,” read the report. “Such challenges include a reality that organizations must provide a range of services and serve as political and civic advocates in the Latinx community. Further, Latinx-led nonprofits are being forced to do more with less. As the Latinx community grows amid persisting inequality, resources are dwindling or not keeping pace with increasing demands.”
In a time of public health and racial justice crises disproportionately affecting socially and economically marginalized communities of color, community-based Latinx organizations are first responders supporting and working directly with families, youth, and elders.
“Many frontline workers are from the Latinx community,” read the report. “They are providing essential services across Greater Boston. Far too many are living in overcrowded conditions and experiencing housing and food insecurity. Immigration issues continue to present complex challenges for Latinx individuals and families living under the threat of detention and deportation. In this climate, the Latinx community is heavily dependent on the community-based organizations.”
According to the report, these organizations support and empower the Latinx community with culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate services and programming.
“Individually and collectively, Latinx-led and Latinxserving organizations are creating and providing a critical safety net anchoring and buoying the Latinx community,” read the reports. “It is time to acknowledge that Latinx community-based organizations play an essential role in Greater Boston.”
The two studies are not about the role and work of individual organizations but rather how, as a collectivity of organizations, this sector is implementing services and resources to enhance Latinx community-building and overall well-being.