In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), the Trust is featuring a series of conversations with Latinx philanthropists and leaders who are making a difference in the region. This article is the first in our series. Check back weekly for a new feature.
Doris Salomón and Angel Gutierrez are co-chairs of Nuestro Futuro, an initiative at the Trust that supports organizations and programs improving the quality of life of the Latinx community in the Chicago region. Salomón is currently the director of programs at Chicago United and has more than 30 years of experience in nonprofit leadership, corporate social responsibility and community relations. Gutierrez is vice president of institutional advancement at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and has over 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience in fundraising, operation and program development.
Salomón and Gutierrez recently sat down with Nina Alcacio, director of public relations at the Trust, to discuss their philanthropic journeys, the importance of including Latinx voices in philanthropy and advice for up-and-coming philanthropists. Some questions and answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Nina Alcacio: Tell me about your philanthropic journey.
Doris Salomón: I have always been passionate about making a positive impact in my community, which has been informed by my upbringing. I am the daughter of two Dominican-born parents who came to this country in the 1950s. Growing up, my father was a physician and my mother stayed home and took care of my three siblings and me. My dad had a practice in Humboldt Park and Pilsen and he didn’t just heal people physically, but he provided his patients with guidance and support. My parents are both religious and taught me the importance of giving to those who are not as fortunate. If there was a food drive or if the church was trying to raise money for a cause, my parents were the first to respond. So, I’ve learned about the importance of giving from my parents.
I must also acknowledge my mentor, Maria Mangual, the founder of Mujeres Latinas en Acción who I met in 1990. She introduced me to the role of mainstream philanthropy and I learned a lot about the needs of Hispanic communities in the Chicago region from her.
My professional and personal life has been in service to others and through my extensive grantmaking portfolio, I have been able to make a positive impact.
Angel Gutierrez: My journey is very interesting. I was fortunate that both my parents worked and put my sister and me through Catholic school and that is where my philanthropic journey began. With Sister Camille instructing us to sell M&Ms with peanuts to people to support the school and as you would imagine, no kid wanted to do it. She said if you want a new movie projector for movie day, then you have to participate, because “every dollar counts” and “those that don’t ask don’t get.” What a powerful statement that has stayed with me all my life – that you must be willing to ASK for WHAT YOU WANT in LIFE! And of course, me being highly competitive as a kid, approached it as a game and approached it as, “Oh, I’m going to win.” So, that is how my journey started..
I’m of Puerto Rican descent. I grew up in a very Puerto Rican household in Chicago’s Little Village, Pilsen and a little bit of Marquette Park, so I’ve had an interesting travel journey. But there used to be a Puerto Rican store on Cermak and Albany called Hector’s. My grandparents lived on the opposite corner, and there was a building for senior living on the other corner. I would find myself after school carrying bags for seniors to their apartment up eight flights of stairs.
As a little kid, I learned the value of a dollar and that it was our responsibility to share what we had with others. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to have an excellent education and career opportunities. My wife and I make decent money, so I think it’s essential for us to help that next generation.
Nina Alcacio: Is there a contribution or a philanthropic achievement for you that you’re most proud of?
Doris Salomón: My proudest achievement is the co-founding of the Latino Giving Circle. We brought together young Latinx and non-Latinx professionals to look at how we can strategically make an impact by pooling our resources to support organizations that are led and supported by Latinos. Also, in 2005 I was recognized by my peers with an award in recognition of my philanthropic giving with the Latino Community Individual Donor Award.
Angel Gutierrez: I’m honored to be in a leadership position that allows me the ability to galvanize the community, corporate partners, other nonprofit and political leaders and stakeholders, to do things that are right for the community. We all know that the Hispanic community has been disproportionately impacted by the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Through Nuestro Futuro, we have quickly pivoted and directed vital financial resources to nonprofits working on the frontlines to support Latinx families.
Nina Alcacio: Could you talk to me a little bit about the importance of having Latinx voices in philanthropy, especially right now?
Doris Salomón: It’s critical to have Latino voices in philanthropy. As far as population, we are the second-largest racial and ethnic group in Chicago. We are an essential piece to the social and economic backbone of the city. As such, philanthropy can and should be doing more to create equity and opportunity by empowering Latinx leaders and community members. Nuestro Futuro must give our Latinx community members a voice because if we don’t, who’s going to lift our voices? Whether you’re in philanthropy, business, government, or education, it’s our responsibility to act and strengthen our neighborhoods and families.
Angel Gutierrez: I think part of the message is how do we encourage and bring people on board to support their communities. And let people know that every dollar matters and that we need everyone to share their gifts of time, talent and treasure to move our community forward.
Nina Alcacio: We’ve seen a flood of generosity this year because of COVID-19, and then the social justice issues that came to the forefront of everything that we were already dealing with. Have these events shifted your thoughts on giving, or what do you think the role of philanthropy is at this time?
Doris Salomón: These events have not changed but strengthened my giving and that of Nuestro Futuro by being responsive to the critical issues affecting our communities. Concerning COVID-19, Latinos were disproportionately impacted, which has decimated our nonprofit community organizations. I am proud that Nuestro Futuro immediately responded by providing our grant recipients with emergency funding. I think it’s important for the philanthropic community to be flexible and to be empathetic and to understand that what the nonprofit needs now more than ever is general operating so they can continue to serve their clients.
Angel Gutierrez: I think philanthropy is super important right now. I believe that what I’ve appreciated is that giving has had to become much more flexible and nimbler in the current environment and space we find ourselves in right now. We need flexibility with philanthropic dollars.
Nina Alcacio: What piece of advice do you have to someone that might be at the beginning of their journey and may be intimidated by the idea of figuring out, “Where do I give, who do I give to,” and feeling like, “There’s just so much need. I don’t even know where to begin”?
Doris Salomón: The first thing I would say is no amount of money is too small. $5 can make a difference. The second thing I would say is support organizations that align with your passion. Research organizations to understand the needs of the community and then support them with your time, financial resources, expertise and wisdom. There are so many ways you can lend your voice. You can be part of a movement. So, don’t be intimidated.
Angel Gutierrez: Every dollar counts. We need everyone to share their gifts of time, talent and treasure. Give what you can. As Doris noted, ask questions, figure out what you’re passionate about and follow your passion. If your passion is kids’ issues, education, racial equity issues, voter registration issues, homelessness, foster care, housing issue—find the thing that makes you the most passionate because the world needs you now. Every place needs an advocate. That’s how you begin that journey.