A Conversation with Alexandra Aquino-Fike, Director of New Initiatives at Hispanics in Philanthropy

Alexandra Aquino-Fike, Director of New Initiatives at Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), recently chatted with us about her organization’s work funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Catalyzing Community Giving grant opportunity. Hispanics in Philanthropy’s mission is to increase investments in Latino communities across the Americas and to increase Latino representation in the philanthropic sector.


Q:  What are your current efforts to catalyze community giving?

A: Right now we’re focusing on our latest initiative called HIPGive. It’s the first transnational crowdfunding platform specifically designed for nonprofits that work with Latino communities. HIPGive helps these community organizations to raise funds for innovative projects. Through the platform they also gain valuable training in key skills like social media, marketing, and online communications. HIPGive is really more than a crowdfunding site; by sharing stories through the platform we mobilize donors from and for Latino communities. Telling powerful stories about giving back inspires more action. We are already seeing that merging generosity and technology creates a powerful force. 


Q:  Do you think projects like yours are part of a larger movement to link community-based giving to critical issues in communities of color?

A: Definitely. You’re seeing every day now movements popping up behind the scenes. Now you see movements hit their tipping points because of social media. Black Lives Matter, for example, has grown so strong so fast in large part because of the rapid sharing of information and stories through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. You’re also seeing underserved communities creating their own narratives on social media channels; a great example of this is the #ImNotaCriminal campaign that went viral this summer in response to Donald Trump’s negative comments about Latinos. We believe the forward thinking and growth you see in social media and crowdfunding are powerful indicators of what’s to come. Last year, $16 billion were raised through crowdfunding and $34 billion is projected for 2016. Communities of color have a unique opportunity to use these tools to benefit and serve their constituents.


Q:  What would you say is your unique approach to philanthropy?

A: HIP’s unique approach is that we view our work through a transnational lens. Philanthropy and giving back in our community are not just about the United States or Latin America; rather, they are very fluid and constantly cross borders. We have members who live in the United States and have families in Latin America and vice versa. Our community transcends borders so our work must also. We feel you have to understand this reality to serve this community.

A recent example of our transnational approach to philanthropy is the emergency crowdfunding campaign – Protect the Children – that we ran last year on HIPGive. The goal of this campaign was to support the work of an inspiring cohort of organizations working on both sides of the border to provide legal and humanitarian services tothe massive influx of unaccompanied children coming to the United States from Central America and Mexico; children who were fleeing horrific levels of violence. In 30 days, 20 organizations raised $70,000 and received another $40,000 in matching dollars. HIP understood that we had to support strategies on both sides of the border to address this crisis.


Q:  How are you documenting this project?

A: We conduct numerous surveys and detailed interviews which we use as the basis for case studies. HIPGive requires participants to complete an exit survey and a three month impact survey. These surveys help us to find out how the tool is being used and what we need to improve. It tells us how the organizations are using the funds to improve their community. We also conduct an analysis of our top performers. Our donor surveys tell us why they give. Detailed interviews with those who didn’t have the best experience help us learn how to improve along the way. Thanks to the support of Kellogg’s evaluation consultants, we are strengthening our HIPGive surveys and interview questions so that we secure the data we want by asking the most targeted questions possible.

Besides our data monitoring and evaluation, we are focusing on collecting broader stories of the generosity that our platform is inspiring or facilitating. We’ve quickly learned that crowdfunding takes more time than people expect and ultimately it boils down to understanding the art of storytelling. Crowdfunding gives organizations an introduction to an audience, but it’s not just a tool for raising money. It mobilizes your base and shows your community why you’re important and why your work matters. Organizations who can tell an emotionally compelling story more often than not secure more donors and meet their goals, while inspiring unexpected actions of generosity beyond just a donation. We are actively working on sharing some of our inspiring stories and on incorporating storytelling into our trainings.


Q:  Where can people go to find additional information?

A: We encourage everyone to visit our platform at www.hipgive.org. There are always new and exciting campaigns opening on the site. Since HIPGive launched, we’ve helped organizations raise funds for 106 projects and initiatives!  There are contests on particular themes and issues every quarter for which we offer extra incentives like matching funds and pro bono prizes to mobilize donors. Our hope is that HIPGive becomes a household name for anyone doing work in the Latino community.