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Castellano Family Foundation Trustees and Grantees at Blueprint for Action Convening

A Call to Action

Yesterday, the Castellano Family Foundation (CFF) made a bold move. We released an insightful report and made a “call to action” to Silicon Valley requesting a $50M investment in the Latinx non-profit sector in order to uplift, empower and advance the Latino communities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. To those of you who know my parents and the founders of CFF, Alcario and Carmen Castellano, it should not come as a surprise that our family would launch such an ambitious and unique initiative and seek to build a bridge between the philanthropic sector and the Latino community. This initiative is the culmination of the more than 50 years that my parents have modeled an inspiring example of what it looks like to believe in your community, love your community, and dedicate your life to advancing your community through volunteerism, leadership, mentoring, and philanthropic giving.

Looking back

As far back as I can remember, my parents played a leadership role in advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and in promoting Latino education and culture. As a little girl, I recall my parents advocating at school board meetings for the diversification of the teaching staff at our elementary school in West San Jose. When my younger brother started at the same school a few years later, his kindergarten teacher was Japanese-American. It wasn’t lost on me that this had happened because of my parents. I remember when my dad called the San Jose Mercury News, insistent that they to hire a Latino on their editorial board. Any public opportunity my father had to push this issue – he did. Finally, Joe Rodriguez was hired by the Mercury and he served as an opinion writer for many years. I couldn’t help but believe that my Dad’s pressure was part of the process that led to that change. My dad also played a leadership role in the San Jose GI Forum, a Mexican-American veteran’s organization that for many years organized the Cinco de Mayo and 16th of September fiestas in San Jose. He organized art shows in the San Jose Convention Center for years, which displayed the artwork of local Latino artists and featured Mexican folkloric dance and music. My father also videotaped over 20 fiestas and has the only historic record of those incredible parades and street fairs, which brought record numbers of people to downtown San Jose. My dad has always been a workhorse AND a mover and shaker. That is a very powerful combination.

Cinco de Mayo Documentary featuring footage from Alcario Castellano

My mother similarly played a leadership role in advancing diversity and Latinos during her forty year tenure as an Executive Secretary at San Jose Community College (SJCC). She was a leader and role model for the staff and students at the college, having served as Classified Senate member and President. She was a founding member of the College’s Affirmative Action Committee and in 1969, she wrote the college’s first Affirmative Action guidelines. She was a co-founder of the Latino Education Association at SJCC, an organization formed to support Latino students and advocate for Latino employees. She has also served on the board of directors for several Latino non-profits including the Latina Leadership Network, the Chicana/Latina Foundation, the Latino Community Foundation, Los Lupenos de San Jose, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.

Building a Foundation

These are just a few examples of the lifetime of dedication my parents have committed to elevating and advancing the Latino community of San Jose and beyond. Given this record of accomplishment in leadership and their devotion to Latino causes, it was perhaps destiny that when my father won the California State Lottery in 2001, the first thing my mom told me when they called with the news was that they were going to start a Foundation and share their good fortune with the Latino community. Seventeen years later, the Castellano Family Foundation (CFF) has provided grants to more than 200 non-profit organizations in Santa Clara County in the areas of arts and culture, leadership and education.

My parents’ journey as philanthropists has allowed them the opportunity to take their message of empowerment and inclusion of Latinos to a national level through their involvement in the philanthropic sector. For more than a decade, my parents travelled all over the country attending national philanthropic conferences and supporting any opportunity to advance DEI issues. My parents were the only visible Latino family Foundation at these events, and people noticed. It was not lost on philanthropic leaders that my parents were advocating for their community – walking the walk as they talked the talk.

My parents also got involved in state and national efforts to diversity philanthropy. My mother was a member of a committee involved in the development of Assembly Bill 624 (Coto), an effort in the California legislature in 2008 led by the Greenlining Institute that sought to compel philanthropy to report DEI data with the goal of increasing investments in communities of color. When a compromise was stuck and the bill was withdrawn, my mother was a founding member of D5, the coalition formed by philanthropy to self-report diversity data. She spoke on multiple panels over the years about the CFF model of community-based philanthropy, the importance of investment in Latinx non-profits, and the need to diversify the staff and boards in mainstream philanthropy. During one plenary presentation at the 2006 Council on Foundations conference in Miami, Florida, my mother called out philanthropy for the lack of investment in the Latino community, citing data from the report by Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) which highlighted the fact that barely over 1% of philanthropic dollars were going to the Latino community. She made people uncomfortable and her veracity was challenged during the Q & A session that followed. She held firm and she held up the HIP report. My mom is a rock star in public AND behind the scenes she was single-handedly running the Foundation with my father at her side.

Chronicle on Philanthropy Conference 2017

Looking ahead

In 2011, my father stepped down as Trustee at CFF and along with my siblings, Armando Castellano and Maria West, I also joined as a Trustee along with my mother. Building on my parents’ legacy, and each bringing our own unique perspectives within the non-profit sector to the table, we sought to build on the community-based grant-making model my parents had started, with a fresh perspective and a view to the future. This new dynamic model involves the Trustees directly interacting with and knowing the grantees, a streamlined grant making process that removes barriers, a staff that is there to engage and support grantees with an emphasis on core support. In an effort to look toward the future, we embarked on a series of focus groups to both listen to and learn from our grantees. We wanted to know the challenges they faced with philanthropy, and we wanted to hear their input on how the CFF could help influence philanthropy to break those barriers and build bridges. Through this series of focus groups and grantee convenings, we received a rich set of feedback that brought to light a myriad of challenges faced by our grantees. Most significantly, there was a sense of being undervalued, underfunded and overlooked by mainstream philanthropy. This input compelled us to take action – a call to action – for Silicon Valley philanthropy to invest more deeply in the Latinx non-profit sector in its own backyard.

Caption: Castellano Family Foundation Board Meeting. Facilitator Teresa Faye-Bustillos, CFF Trustees Maria West, Carmen Castellano, Carmela Castellano-Garcia, and Armando Castellano, and Angie Briones CFF Program Director

Castellano Family Foundation Board Meeting. Facilitator Teresa Faye-Bustillos, CFF Trustees Maria West, Carmen Castellano, Carmela Castellano-Garcia, and Armando Castellano, and Angie Briones CFF Program Director

All of the CFF’s efforts to date led us to yesterday – an historic event for our Foundation, our grantees, and the Latino community. The Castellano Family Foundation, a very small but mighty philanthropic organization, joined forces with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) – the largest community foundation in the world with $13.5B in assets in 2018 – to call on Silicon Valley philanthropy to do more. Erica Wood, SVCFs Executive VP, Community Impact, was by our side as we joined with our grantees and the community to make this important call to action.

A Blueprint for Change

We are asking for Silicon Valley Philanthropy to invest $50 million over the next five (5) years in Latinx leaders and causes to achieve better outcomes for the community at large. This initiative will establish a funder collaborative housed at SVCF that includes community involvement, creates a leadership program for Latinx non-profit leaders, and will seek to educate mainstream philanthropy on the unique challenges and opportunities within the Latinx non-profit sector. It is our belief that through this partnership, an increased investment in our community will have an exponential impact and change the way mainstream philanthropy values and interacts with our constituency.

Yesterday marked a pivotal step in the next phase of my family’s philanthropic journey. I can’t tell you what an honor and privilege it is to be in a position to carry forward my parents’ legacy in this manner. To see how their lifetime of dedication can inspire others and mainstream philanthropy to do more for the Latinx community. This is what CFF was built on, what has guided us for the last 17 years, and is a tradition we will carry forward for years to come. I am looking forward to the partnerships that will evolve from our call to action and I am confident – that like everything else that involves my parents – we WILL continue to have an impact.

Caption: Castellano Family Foundation Trustees, grantees and philanthropic leaders call for a $50 million investment in Latinx-led organizations in the Silicon Valley.

Castellano Family Foundation Trustees, grantees and philanthropic leaders call for a $50 million investment in Latinx-led organizations in the Silicon Valley.

For more information on the work done at the Castellano Family Foundation, visit http://castellano-ff.org/blueprint

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