Financial World Paved Path to Philanthropy for Evelyn Barahona
Evelyn Barahona: I now have the opportunity to strengthen the fund’s capacity beyond grantmaking.
One of the last things Evelyn Barahona expected when she graduated college with an international business degree was heading up the Latino Equity Fund, which works to amplify diverse voices and perspectives within the Latino community and beyond in Greater Boston.
This is her story.
After graduating in 1999 from Northeastern University with a degree in international business, I pursued my interest in finance and worked for several years for a few financial services firms, including being part of the small cap value team as an associate and then later on the marketing and development side of investment management.
Having grown up in San Francisco in a working class immigrant family, the world of finance was initially foreign to me. It felt similar to my experience living in France as part of my Northeastern University exchange program where I had to learn a new language and navigate different cultural norms.
Most importantly, those jobs taught me the importance of always being curious, adaptable, and willing to learn new things.
Over time, I became involved with a number of nonprofit organizations which focused on professional development for Latino professionals. As time went on, I became more aware of other nonprofits that focused on issues impacting Latinos and met many community leaders doing important work. This left a lasting impression on me regarding what is possible when pooling resources and working with a talented, committed individuals who have a desire to make an impact.
My path toward philanthropy began taking shape when I decided that I wanted to work for more mission-driven, in contrast to profit-driven, organizations, although I didn’t know that at the time. During this exploratory process, I met and connected with many people through my network of friends and colleagues that were doing impactful work that I admired.
Then, in 2017, after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, I joined The Boston Foundation as a consultant for the newly created Massachusetts United for Puerto Fund to address the storm’s aftermath, both on the island and in Massachusetts. A few later, I was asked to join the foundation’s Philanthropy Group and to serve as a liaison to its Latino philanthropic fund, then called the Latino Legacy Fund (LEF).
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund realized that without health equity there is no legacy to leave behind. The advisory committee changed its name to the Latino Equity Fund to reflect what was needed in the Latino community, namely equitable access to health and economic prosperity.
The fund also redirected its grant efforts toward supporting nonprofits in vulnerable Latino communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and creating a communication campaign in English and Spanish to help families access available resources during this critical time.
Soon after the fund changed its name and revised its framework, LEF sought to increase its capacity to better serve the Latino community by launching a $10 million dollar fundraising campaign. Having served as a liaison, the opportunity to be part of this next phase was a wonderful opportunity to make a bigger impact.
In May 2021, I became LEF’s first dedicated director. In partnership with Latino leaders serving on the fund’s advisory committee and The Boston Foundation, I now have the opportunity to strengthen the fund’s capacity beyond grantmaking. This includes amplifying our expertise, expanding our reach, having a greater civic leadership role, serving as an advocate, and using research to elevate key issues impacting Latinos in the state.