Revolutionary Love — Our Secret Sauce

  • By Masha Chernyak, October 28, 2019

What if the philanthropic sector placed as much value on love and relationships as we do on data and outputs? What if strategic plans accounted for the time it takes to actually build deep, authentic trust and our theories of change had love at the center?

It’s no longer a dream— it’s how we do the work and why we’ve had such powerful results.

At the Latino Community Foundation, our work is rooted in love. It’s not just something we put on our website, but something we practice every single day. From the Latino Nonprofit Accelerator to the Latino Giving Circle Network to each of our participatory grantmaking initiatives—people are at the center. We infuse our strategy with culture, stories, and trust. When we say love, we mean it and people feel it.

When people walk into our offices, we say, “Welcome Home.” When we have a meeting, it’s a 1:1, an opportunity to build an authentic relationship, the basis for everything we do. People are pleasantly surprised when I ask deeply personal questions about what drives them, makes them happy and who they are fighting for.

When we have events and gatherings, we set up a room so that people can actually express themselves, be authentic and leave inspired. We sit in circle, we value personal story-telling and we are learning how to slow down to make sure we are deeply listening to each other. For example, we are planning a big festival in October - the LTX fest. It will include a mental health space room with bi-lingual therapists, live music, a love letter writing station, and a big mural painting art activation room. We deserve more than just back to back panels.

Over the years, I’ve learned that our greatest impact is how we make people feel. It’s not just about the money we liberate for our movements. It’s about the people and the process of making social change. It begins with us. People are hungry for spaces and people who make them feel seen, understood, valued.

Through our groundbreaking Latino Nonprofit Accelerator, I have learned many lessons in our efforts to help Latino nonprofits raise their visibility, attract more resources and own their power. Here are my top 3:

1. When you give folks the best, they become the best! Through the Accelerator, we help our leaders re-build their websites, launch individual donor campaigns, and develop marketing materials that inspire. We pair them up with the very best content strategists, designers, photographers, mentors, and fundraising coaches. This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but funders don’t place equal value on grassroots nonprofits creating collateral and investing in communications. Instead nonprofits take the leftovers, the donated laptops that break down. We are done with that.

2. You have to talk about money. That’s the elephant in the room. If you’re not asking – you probably aren’t raising the money you want. But here’s the deal…If you didn’t grow up with wealth, you might have some shame around asking. But what you also have is guts and an entrepreneurial spirit. We ask our leaders, “how do you feel when you give back”? Amazing is usually the answer. When you ask, don’t forget that. You are giving people something of immense value. An opportunity to support something that matters. Then, we open doors with funders that we know.

3. Love is the secret sauce. Even a small dose of love and care for the people doing the work is transformative. When you are seen, respected, and cared for—you can heal, stand taller, be bolder. Love is medicine and we all need it; especially given the urgency of the times we find ourselves in.

I’m a new mom and I’ve learned that a baby’s brain needs love to develop. Kids need to hear things like, “I love you” and “you are doing great” in order to have confidence and to get back up when they fall. They also need a ton of hugs! We are no different. I need love to be my best, fullest self.

What about our nonprofit leaders? What does philanthropy say to them? There’s a typo in your application. How is this sustainable? Let’s schedule a call in 4 months. Really? That is the best we have to offer our frontline leaders? It can really bring you down. I know this because we’ve been there. We aren’t an endowed foundation, we raise every dollar from scratch. We are also the only ones in California solely focused on Latinos. I flew to LA for two funder meetings once. The first one cancelled while I was walking in and the second barely looked me in the eyes. I ended up crying on the bench outside. It took me 6 months to get those meetings.

In a new, groundbreaking Brown Paper, “Measuring Love in the Journey for Justice” authored by two of my personal heroes – Shiree Teng and Sammy Nunez, they call upon love as the antidote to injustice. They show us that love is the most powerful force in the universe, and that yes, it can and should be measured as a metric for non-profit success. And it’s not just about the numbers you can count…it’s about your intuition, listening to your gut, and your spiritual ways of knowing that things are working.

The kind of love Shiree and Sammy are talking about is not just a feeling, it’s an action. It takes courage, humility, and compassion. It is real, it’s messy, it hurts—but it is a force. I try to let that force guide everything we do through the Latino Nonprofit Accelerator. Might seem crazy for a tech inspired incubator, but we are here for the long-haul, shifting organizational culture and building power. Trust me, it won’t happen without love.

For the Accelerator, we are measuring our success on the level of confidence built around owning impact, communicating our stories, and the amount of new money raised for our groups. We are focused on the conditions that make this possible. Did you feel loved, supported, understood? Are you more hopeful about your organization and our collective future? Do you feel like you are part of a community that has your back? The answer, they tell us is yes, and that’s why this initiative is a gamechanger.

Shifting the approaches and effectiveness of philanthropy won’t happen overnight. But we know that with love, at our foundation, it is possible. And it is worth fighting for.

Masha Chernyak

Vice President of Programs

Masha is a strategic visionary, community organizer, and an experienced advocate for the Latino immigrant community.

In her current position as VP of Programs and Policy, Masha leads LCF’s change-making strategy. In 2017, Masha launched the 1st ever Latino Nonprofit Accelerator to unleash the power of grassroots Latino nonprofits. Masha has also been instrumental in launching two key pillars of LCF’s work – the California Latino Agenda, LCF’s advocacy platform and the Latino Giving Circle Network™, now the largest network of Latino donors in the country. In her leadership role, Masha also provides strategic guidance for LCF’s communications, branding, and social media presence.