I am one of many. We are primarily white, often men. We have led the nonprofit sector for decades, and it’s time for us to step aside. When my last gig ended, I dedicated myself to supporting a younger generation of leaders and helping them challenge the systems, ideas, and policies that have limited our ability to really change things. “Against the Current” will introduce you to some of the fierce, determined, and talented young people I follow, mentor, and believe should be heard. The future is coming, and it’s theirs… let’s help them march out to meet it. —Robert Egger
Mando is fun guy I met in Austin, doing powerful work prepping a new generation of board leaders. As a leader who always tried to buck the notion of the “give and get” model of Board development (with its built-in bias for people in power), I was immediately impressed with his work at The New Philanthropist. Plus, he’s a taco savant, with a lust for life that made me a fan from the get-go.
- What’s your thing…not what you do, but why you do what you do?
I’m a nonprofit guy with a “Sí se puede!” attitude! Some people have seen me as the tip of the spear that comes with a friendly reminder that we can no longer tolerate the status quo. To me, this means that I’ve got a responsibility to make sure people of color are always represented at the table.
- OK, now tell us what you do.
By day, I’m the co-founder of The New Philanthropists (TNP), an organization that focuses on making nonprofit boards more diverse, inclusive, and equitable… so when it comes down to it, we know it’s a must to have Latinx, Black, and Asian communities present on nonprofit boards in order to serve those communities better. By night, I’m a Taco Journalist, author, and producer/host of United Tacos of America TV show.
- What makes you want to scream most about the state of philanthropy? What gives you the most hope for our sector?
Honestly, what’s most frustrating is that I feel like I’ve been having the same conversation with leadership for the past 20 years, yet it’s the same status quo. It is not ok to have board members who are predominantly white, who come from the same zip code, and who are recruited by their peers or people who feel comfortable with them. Yet they don’t see how that affects the people who need a voice, the very people that have a connection with the community that the organization serves.
While it is frustrating to experience this in the nonprofit sector, there is hope. That was one of the reasons we launched TNP. We wanted to create a pathway for leaders of color and nonprofit boards to take action. I talk to many nonprofit leaders and board members and they want to change the conversation. These are the trailblazers willing to step up, make mistakes. and make progress toward being more representative of their communities.
- If you could get the ear of a presidential candidate, what law or policy would you most urge them to enact, and how would it radically rock your world?
Personally, the issues that affect me are immigration, DACA, and closing detention centers. These are humane issues to address. And in the work I do with The New Philanthropists, diverse voices matter whether it’s a candidate or policy. We really need people of color at the table in all circles of leadership, and candidates need to know that they need to be more open, intentional, and welcoming; they cannot build it or be successful without our voices and participation.
- How much money would you need to truly run wild and what would it allow you to do?
One million dollars. Yup, I said it! We’ve launched something special in Austin with our small but mighty team at The New Philanthropists. We’re recruiting leaders of color to join mainstream nonprofit boards, equipping them with the tools they need to navigate mostly homogeneous spaces through workshops, like our Equity Chair Workshop Series, and mentoring through the Board Mentors of Color program. Imagine being mentored by a leader of color that enables you to make connections and engage in spaces to which you normally wouldn’t have access? We’re also working with nonprofit boards as well and helping them become more inclusive through assessments and planning. For those that get it, it’s a long-term process. No quick fix solutions here. We’re also building a matchmaking online system to allow for leaders of color and nonprofits to connect based on their needs and passions. I often tell folks that we’re piloting a lot of these programs because not many people are doing the work we do and we’re pioneers in this development.
- What was the last code word, bizsplaining moment or condescending comment you got from an elder; and what did you say, or wish you could have said to push back?
“Mando, you need to work on the way you pronounce your words.” Talk about code for not speaking American or in a white-centric way. #Microaggression. I was able to say that we all have our different styles and ways of speaking but it’s always hard when these types of situations catch you off guard.
- Talk about your best elder ally, and how they inspired you through their actions.
I would have to say it’s Earl Maxwell, former CEO of St. David’s Foundation. He’s been a big supporter of our work right from the start. Along the way I’ve met a lot of people who show their support for equity programming, and for some, it’s just lip service with no follow-through. It’s not easy work, and having Earl support us, really engage with the organization in real ways, and take a chance on our mission is a part of what has created momentum for The New Philanthropists. Now that Earl has retired, we want him to continue to be a part of our journey because he helped start something that will be his legacy in making Austin a more diverse and inclusive community. I’m pretty proud of that.
- Many talk about diversity in the sector, or the lack of it. How do you and your org walk the walk?
One of the events we did for TNP had a quote from Cesar Chavez that reflected on how we are driving this organization — “Talk is cheap…It is the way we organize and use our lives every day that tells what we believe in.” The New Philanthropists is founded on walk the talk. As co-founder, I’ve seen the sector grow but not in a way that includes people of color at the leadership level. That’s one of the reasons I co-founded TNP, to be a place where you can build relationships, whether you’re a leader of color or a nonprofit executive or board member. Paulina Artieda, Executive Director for TNP, begins our workshops with the idea of, “Get used to the discomfort when it comes to talking about race and ethnicity…” and I agree with that. We can’t help others continue to feel comfortable about not creating spaces for all…. feeling too comfortable has led us here. It’s time to feel uncomfortable people!
- Tell us about another young leader everyone should know about.
Angelica Erazo is a power house, leader of color, diversity champion and all around chingona! She not only serves on The New Philanthropists’ board but supports many local nonprofits (Latinitas, Hispanic Quality of Life Commission) and always with the purpose of building inclusion. As Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator at Oracle she’s always looking to support and build people up, and Angelica’s actions come through in the community as she’s always inspiring people and tackling issues by speaking up and addressing them head on.
- What do you want to be able to say about yourself and your leadership in 20 years?
“Man, he ate some good tacos in his life!” Also, if I can say that I made a dent in this ongoing work of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the board level, I would be pretty proud. 20 years ago I started this nonprofit path and today, we’re still talking about how to change the community, make nonprofits more representative of the community. It just shows we’ve got a long way to go. But I know that I’m not alone and haven’t done things on my own, so here’s to the next leaders of color and intentional allies willing to do this work and continue the path.
- You’ve also taken your legendary love of tacos national, with your new show, United Tacos of America. Besides tacos, what are you trying to expose America to?
We explored the taco culture, from taqueros and tortilleras, Abuelas y Tios and home cooks, rancheros and chefs, who talk about not only their love for the food, but how culture truly is part of the story of the taco. It’s important for us to also tell the stories of the cooking traditions behind the tacos, but we also want to highlight the social issues that are connected to the food: immigration, vendor rights, gentrification, and respect of the culture are all part of the story.
[Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. The views in this column to do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.]
Mando Rayo’s experience is deep-rooted in Latinx and multicultural communities. Mando is the Co-founder & Managing Director of The New Philanthropists, a pioneering organization that works to create more racially diverse and inclusive nonprofit boards in Austin, TX. Mando is a digital storyteller and uses his Latinx identity to inspire and build bridges through his multicultural marketing agency (Mando Rayo + Collective) and his taco books & shows, The Tacos of Texas (IndieLens Storycast/PBS Digital Studios) & United Tacos of America (El Rey Network).
Robert Egger originated the community kitchen/social enterprise model, now replicated globally. He made payroll for 30 years, while remaining 100% open-source to any and all seeking information about job training, empowerment, social enterprise, and nonprofit political activism. A noted author and speaker, he is now 100% dedicated to supporting young leaders. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org