BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA, Washington Post Writers Group
CHICAGO -- Note to those finance chairmen of any political party or philanthropic organization who may have been dismayed to learn about Hispanics' paltry campaign contributions during this presidential race: Look to the future.
A recent Associated Press analysis found that Americans living in predominantly wealthy, white neighborhoods accounted for almost all sizable campaign contributions in the current presidential election. Hispanic donors represented less than 4 percent of more than 3 million-plus contributions of $200 or more.
However, as with most issues affecting the Hispanic community, this too shall pass.
There's no question that, right now, Latinos are not as affluent as whites. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates median household income for Hispanics at $37,759 compared to $54,620 for non-Hispanic whites, according to 2010 figures.
This is in line with the fact that the Hispanic unemployment rate has been higher than the general population’s throughout the downturn and with the reality that nearly nine times as many non-Hispanic whites graduate from college as do Latinos.
But to anyone who makes their living garnering support for institutions, this should matter little. There's a well-known adage in the fundraising biz that says that organizations require three types of important contributions: talent, time and treasure.
Sure, the treasure isn't there yet -- but this will surely change. The Hispanic population is the youngest in this country, with a median age of 27, compared to 42 for whites, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Nearly a quarter of Hispanics today are children under the age of 18.
While there will always be disparities, simple logic says that as this population ages, substantial numbers of "median age" and young Hispanics will have had the time to put themselves on a financial footing that will enable higher-dollar campaign contributions.
Look at it this way and Hispanics are not so much a challenge as an opportunity. The Jeb Bushes and Karl Roves of the GOP have been saying for years that they need to reach out to Latinos to ensure their party's future. Yet right now, Republicans are squandering the talent and time portion of the sustainable organization equation.
While I've seen many impressive Latino politicians such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico stumping for Mitt Romney, I can't remember seeing a single news feature about large numbers of teen and 20-something Hispanics breaking their backs to get out the vote for Republicans.
Most of the intense young Latino enthusiasm is being spent on President Obama. And while you can criticize how that enthusiasm was generated, the fact of the matter is that the Democrats have courted Latinos' time, talent and loyalty the way one imagines the Republicans have courted the biggest names on Wall Street.
Hispanics may not be big players in philanthropy or political contributions today. But the many organizations who will someday have to rely on the Latino population boom to sustain their operations can't afford to see this demographic as anything less than lucrative prospects who will eventually donate after a long period of attentive cultivation.
Esther J. Cepeda's email address is email@example.com
Copyright 2010 Washington Post Writers Group