About Armando

Issue area: Latino arts, culture, education, and leadership
Regional focus: Santa Clara County, Calif.
Vehicle: Castellano Family Foundation
Years in philanthropy: 7
Time spent on philanthropy (weekly): 6 to 8 hours
Wealth story: Second-generation family trustee
Recommended resources and nonprofits: Donors of Color Network
Recommended by: Nadia Roumani, Senior Designer, Designing for Social Systems Program at Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of Design

Philanthropy is not for the faint of heart. As donors we need to make sure we're processing our anger and our sadness in a healthy way, and then we've got to keep moving forward. We can't get resentful or overwhelmed. Our world can't afford that. So a big part of my philanthropy is cultivating myself and doing my inner work, to make sure I am showing up as best as I can for the long-term.

A big part of my role is listening and making space for others. Because there's a power dynamic, right? And as a donor or a trustee, I need to be extra intentional about creating space for others. So often in meetings with staff or grantees, I will physically sit with my hand over my mouth, to remind myself of that.

I set the following norms for all of my meetings: Practice open-hearted listening; cultivate a commitment to self-transformation; leave room for voices that have been traditionally disenfranchised; and be engaged and present. As a funder I need to model these values. I really believe we need to embody the change we want to see. Additionally, as a donor, I don't need to share solutions. But I can share power and influence with grantees.

Less than 1.5% of all philanthropic funding goes towards Latino programs and organizations. In addition to providing funding to fill this critical gap, we also try to influence other funders to do so. We recently launched our Blueprint for Change, a study on funding patterns and gaps in the Bay Area. We found that while individual giving in Silicon Valley is growing rapidly, Latino organizations continue to be underfunded and financially unstable, despite providing critical community services. And even when they do receive funding, it comes with a lot more strings attached than for white-led organizations.

On funding BIPOC-led orgs
We need to fund organizations led by people of color. Period. And if we really want to support communities of color, we need to trust them just as much as we trust white-led organizations. We need to give them general operating support. We need to stop scrutinizing every detail of their work through mind-numbing reports -- POC-led [people of color] organizations have to spend so much staff time reporting back to funders. Not to mention that our frameworks for thinking about impact and data are very white, and communities of color need to go the extra mile to meet those standards. It's a constant process of unlearning, of decolonization, even for myself.

On deconstructing notions of risk
When we see a proposal that might not be very eloquent, or we see that an organization is small and lacks financial stability, we [might] think, "That's a risky investment." But organizations led by people of color have been underfunded for decades. We know this -- the data gives us a clear picture. Because they're underfunded, they often don't have the capacity to write sophisticated grant proposals or applications. They don't have access to funding networks. Yet these organizations are often the most innovative; they've been able to do so much with so little, and for so long. So we need to really reconsider how we determine risk. And moreso, we have to take risks. As donors and people with wealth, we are the ones who should be risking everything.

On working within the white-dominated field of philanthropy
I can't tell you how many philanthropy conferences and gatherings I've been to where I'm the only Latino in the room. ​I'm constantly aware that I need to make myself palatable, that I need to fit the implicit norms of the donor world, the ones we don't talk about. I need to dress and speak in certain ways. I need to talk about race without making anyone feel too uncomfortable. It's a constant calculation: Can I say "white supremacy?” Or should I say "systems of harm" or "systems of oppression" instead? Can I say "racial justice" or "reparations," or even "racism?” Or do I stick with "diversity, equity, and inclusion?”  There are so many codes! I don't know that other donors really understand what it takes to show up in a white system everyday … even for me, a donor/trustee with all the power and with nothing to lose, it weighs heavy. Even just now, I said "white system" instead of "system rooted in white supremacy.”

Final Thoughts: It's an important reminder that truly supporting POC goes beyond funding communities of color. We need to be hiring and promoting inclusively across both our philanthropic and non-philanthropic organizations, contracting inclusively, and elevating organizational leaders of color.

Read other stories about donors centering equity.