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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Nonprofit Groups Seek Latino Donors

June 11, 1995|ENRIQUE LAVIN

Dino Barajas, a 27-year-old banking attorney for a New York-based law firm, believes that all successful Latinos should give back to their community.

"Latino professionals have a duty to return to the community that has afforded us to reach the positions that some of us are in," said Barajas, a Harvard Law School graduate whose mother was a migrant farm worker.

In a new fund-raising strategy, local nonprofit groups are turning to young Latino professionals such as Barajas to shore up their budgets, with mixed results.

The latest is Proyecto Pastoral. On Thursday, Barajas will be among hundreds of young professionals who will pay $25 to help the nonprofit social service wing of Mission Dolores. The fund-raiser will be held at the mission's Homeboy Bakery, 171 S. Gless St.

"When we looked at our individual donor list we saw a very low number of Latinos on there," said Yolanda Chavez, a board member of the 8-year-old Pico-Aliso community-based organization.

Proyecto and other community-based nonprofit groups that depend mostly on large corporate donations or government grants to operate are increasingly turning to Latino professionals, until now a largely untapped resource.

To increase its chances of success, Proyecto is getting personal. Event organizers are inviting friends and acquaintances rather than sending out mailers, the way nonprofit groups usually solicit money.

Like Proyecto, the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) solicited Latino professionals for contributions shortly after voters last November approved Proposition 187, a law restricting services to illegal immigrants.

Fund raising "is like pulling teeth," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the Boyle Heights-based NALEO, which has collected $3,000 in donations since February, when the drive began. "On the one hand, when you explain the efforts you are doing in the community, people get jazzed. But when you send them a letter, we are not successful."

Likewise, one of the most successful pledge drives of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) came on the heels of Proposition 187.

"It had a real personal impact on so many people that they felt they needed to do something," said Alicia Maldonado, a fund-raiser director at MALDEF, which raises less than 10% of its $5.4-million budget in Southern California.

Also a member of Hispanics for L.A. Opera, Maldonado said young Latino professionals are generally absent from donor lists and that many nonprofit groups are seeking ways to recruit them.

Roughly 70% of Proyecto's revenues come from foundation grants or government money, said Chavez, chief of staff for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles).

The organization, which runs homeless shelters, housing for single women and gang intervention programs, hopes to flip that figure so the majority of its contributions come from individual donors, said Father Jerry Helfrich, executive director of Proyecto. Most of Proyecto's individual donors come from the Westside, South Bay or Pasadena.

"The nature of the individual donor base is that people give periodically during the year. We feel that Latino business people have wanted to help, but don't know where to give," he said.

Proyecto expects to raise $5,000 to $10,000 Thursday from the pool of Latino doctors, professors, engineers and lawyers, like Barajas, who believe they can make a difference.

"A large part of trying to figure out who I'm going to give to relies on whether it goes back to the Latino community," Barajas said. "This comes from the philosophy of a Latino who has been able to make it in a profession."

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