Engaging Hispanics in capital campaigns can often be difficult. Many parishes tell us that their Hispanic population won’t give financially to appeals. However, overcoming that barrier requires knowing your constituents and working to engage them in your overall mission. Engaging the Hispanic community is not just about marketing. You cannot just translate things into Spanish and hope for the best. It requires a genuine commitment to diversity on behalf of the parish leadership.
What does the term Hispanic really mean? While there are 31 countries where Spanish is spoken and over 427 million people speak Spanish worldwide, most Spanish speakers will identify themselves by country of origin rather than the language they speak. In addition, over 90% of Spanish speakers identify themselves as Christian and within this group most are Catholics who have received some, if not all, of their Sacraments of Initiation.
Hispanic Catholics emigrating and now living in United States often find themselves split between their country of origin and their new home. According to a 2013 World Bank report, Mexico continues to be, by a large margin, the recipient of the most monetary remittances among Spanish speaking countries. The fate of the US economy has a significant effect on money being sent to Mexico, both in the amount and in value.
The majority of newly arrived immigrants are in distress socioeconomically and are among the poorest members of our society. Most of them have blue-collar jobs and work very hard for very little money. Most immigrants live on a day-to-day basis and the money that is sent back to their families in their countries of origin is truly a personal sacrifice on their part.
As has been the case for many other immigrant groups that came to the United States, Hispanics look to the Church to meet their needs spiritually, but also to help them connect to society. They seek to find their extended family in the Catholic Church. Often they find employment, child care, housing, and are even able to share their skills and talents through connections they make at their parish. Parishes that come to know this reality and minister to these needs have a great opportunity for growth in the future.
Most of our immigrant Spanish speaking brothers and sisters come from countries where the Church is viewed as a place that serves and provides for its parishioners. In fact, the Church is viewed as an outlet for human services and direct assistance to the needy. The Church in the United States still provides some services to the needy, but the government and other sectors provide the bulk of public assistance. The Church here is a place in need of our offerings and stewardship of time, talent and of our treasure. This is the opposite of the reality of the home countries of Hispanic immigrants and part of the reason why the practice of stewardship of treasure takes time to develop among this community. It takes time for this paradigm shift to take place for Hispanic immigrants.
This does not mean that generosity is not present among Hispanic immigrants. On the contrary, we have found that they are most generous with their gifts of time and talent. They are more than willing to collaborate in parish events to help raise funds, beautify and make simple repairs to parish property or prepare food baskets to help others. In addition, during extreme need or natural disasters most are willing to offer a one-time or short-term financial gift to help with the problems.
Long-term commitments are a different proposition. Initially, many Spanish speaking immigrants plan to return to their country of origin at some point in the future and therefore find it hard to make a deep commitment, especially a financial one. In addition, where these immigrants settle initially is not always where they make their long-term dwelling. It can take a few years for newly arrived Hispanics to finally settle down. The true reality is that most Hispanic immigrants wind up staying here in the United States, establishing roots and raising families here. Once they have children and grandchildren, the thought of moving back “home” becomes more and more difficult to actualize.
Guidance in Giving serves a wide variety of parishes with different ethnic make-ups. In fact, even in parishes with a large Hispanic presence, not all are made up of immigrant communities. Many communities, such as in the Northeast, have parishes with third and fourth generation Spanish speakers who also speak perfect English, yet still prefer to worship in Spanish.
It is very important therefore to first understand the community we will be serving before we propose an effective fundraising plan to the parish leadership. For example, knowing the best timeline for pledge redemption and at what level to set the “minimum ask,” can mean the difference between a successful campaign and one that does not raise its full potential.
Our firm recognizes the changing demographics in the Catholic Church and has dedicated an entire division with specific expertise in serving the Hispanic Community. While speaking Spanish is a great start, we also recognize the tasks and nuances of working within these diverse communities. We have the experience to effectively reach families with a message of stewardship they can relate to. We strive to offer the same opportunity for generosity to the Lord and his Church to everyone in ways that are compelling and inviting. Our Hispanic brothers and sisters are truly a gift to the Church and we are proud to serve them and all the communities of the Catholic Church.