After years of relying on grants, leaders of La Paz—which connects local members of the Latino community with an array of resources—said they are restructuring their funding system and moving away from grants.
"This is where we’ve wanted to be for quite some time," Stacy Johnson, executive director of La Paz Chattanooga, said. "Government funding can be a double-edged sword. It’s alluring because when it comes your way it’s usually in large chunks. However, you never know how long the funding will be there for you, which makes it hard to create and run meaningful long-term programs."
La Paz is raising money through local organization Causeway. Click here for more info.
Beginning Jan. 1, the nonprofit will start operating on a budget that includes no federal or state assistance.
And leaders are looking for help from area businesses, individual donors and other entities that can help La Paz officials continue to promote their mission of empowering and engaging the city's growing Latino community through education, advocacy and inclusion.
The change doesn't mean La Paz officials will never apply for another grant again, but they don't want grants to be their major source of funding.
David Martin, who heads up La Paz development and communications efforts, said that many factors, such as administration changes and fluctuations of tax revenue, impact the flow of grant money.
Martin and Johnson both said locally sourced money from people and businesses that are invested in the community give La Paz a more sustainable funding model.
They have laid the groundwork for this move by building relationships with area foundations, individuals and business leaders.
In the nonprofit world, everyone is scrambling to make sure their organization is still around in six months, Martin said.
"We've got friends who can patch us through as we go through this paradigm shift," Martin said. "In the near term, we're OK, but for long-term sustainability, we really do need to identify those partners who can step up."
The idea is to find about 10 entities that can contribute funding over a three- to five-year period.
About 10 years after starting with one part-time employee and a working board, La Paz has evolved from a small, reactive nonprofit to a proactive, client-led organization, leaders said.
When the organization first formed in 2004, board members took care of details such as the website and financials, Johnson said.
There was a part-time person in the office to see clients, and the idea was to help anyone who came through the door with whatever problem they had. It was reactive.
In 2008, a grant of about $200,000 helped catapult the organization to a new level, Johnson said. Leaders moved the part-time person to full time and hired two other people to work for 10 or 15 hours a week.
Near that time, Johnson took the role of director at five hours a week.
"We all had other jobs, and we were trying our hardest to get to La Paz," she said.
Now, nearly 10 years later, the organization has a team of seven—six paid and one unpaid.
And now, instead of only reacting to whoever walks through the door, leaders have taken the issues they commonly see and created programming around them to meet community needs.
In 2012, La Paz Chattanooga served more than 4,000 clients through a wide range of programs, with a focus on health and wellness, strong families, education and civic engagement.
Over the next few years, La Paz leadership expects to see an increased demand on the organization’s services.
The organization has programs that teach area Latino residents about everything from health to domestic violence. And La Paz leaders still take on whatever issues might arise on any given day.
Officials might help someone understand an EPB bill one day and work to raise community awareness about the Latino population the next day.
The goal is to empower clients and engage community members.
And if someone comes through the doors and La Paz doesn't have resources to help, leaders connect clients with other area organizations that can help.
As La Paz has grown, so has the area Latino population.
In 1990, the United States Census Bureau estimated that less than 1 percent of the total Hamilton County population was Latino.
In 2020, that number will be close to 12 percent, according to La Paz.
Johnson said she thinks area residents are aware of the growing Latino community, but many might think that La Paz has all the issues taken care of.
"We are seven people, and we have the responsibility of working with 20,000-plus Latinos," she said. "That's a big job. We know we have to bring awareness the nonprofits and businesses and foundations so that they, too, can help with this population."
Latino Leadership Awards
On Monday, more than 200 people gathered at the Doubletree Hotel downtown to celebrate La Paz's 2013 Latino Leadership Awards.
Ten finalists were honored at the awards ceremony, but only two took home the event's signature titles—the Chattanooga's Choice Award and Latino Leader of the Year Award.
Those honored were Marco Diaz, Brainerd Church of Christ; Mario Duarte, Volkswagen; José Luis Loa Garcia, Carnicerías Loa #6, 7, 9; Ani Hernandez Johnson, Richmont Community Counseling Center; Fabiola Ortiz, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union; Nahomi Ortiz, Southern Star Immigration/Chattanooga State Community College (student); Jorge Perez, Unum; Marco Pérez, Chalmers Center at Covenant College; Geovanny Ragsdale, Southern Adventist University; and Ivette Rios, Tennessee Small Business Development Center.
Mayor Andy Berke spoke to the crowd and said that city leaders have created a Spanish class for city employees.
And he talked about the importance of inclusion.
"We are at our best when every single member of our community feels included and we tap into their strengths and abilities," he said.
Dr. Julia L. Perilla, director of the National Latino Research Center and faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Georgia State University, gave the keynote address and spoke about the importance of relying on members of the Latino community to guide the creation of programs that will be most beneficial.
Perez took home the Chattanooga's Choice Award, and Garcia received the Latino of the Year Award.
Updated @ 9:26 a.m. on 9/17/13 for clarity/to add more information.
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