By Sharon Chin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – California’s Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in the state with an estimated population of 15 million, and yet only about one percent of philanthropic dollars are invested in Latino organizations. A San Francisco woman is working to change that.

Claudia Arroyo heads the nonprofit Prospera, which helps hundreds of Latinas a year launch co-op businesses in 13 states.

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She’s grateful to mentor Jacqueline Martinez.

“She has this amazing combination between power, intelligence, and she’s really compassionate,” Arroyo said.

Martinez has led the Latino Community Foundation as CEO since 2015.

The foundation leads one of the largest networks of Latino philanthropists in the country. It’s invested $17 million in more than 150 California organizations that give back to the community.

“It’s the people we stand behind that will actually change the things we need to change to make this a more equitable and just world,” said Martinez.

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The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) is the only California foundation focused solely on investing in Latino leaders.

Leaders like Jacob Martinez, no relation, executive director of Digital NEST, based in Watsonville.

He trains youth for jobs in digital technology.

And he says Jacqueline Martinez and LCF not only provide funding through giving circles, but also coach leaders and connect them to resources for success.

“They believe in my work, they believe in me as a leader, they open up access to other philanthropy,” Jacob Martinez said.

In addition, Jacqueline Martinez led the way as LCF has poured millions of dollars in support to immigrant farmworkers and families during the pandemic and Wine Country wildfires.

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The foundation has also funded needs from housing to job training.