Ethnic nonprofits a diverse group

Vajrayogini Buddhist Center
Vajrayogini Buddhist Center

Ethnic nonprofits in the Washington, D.C., area go beyond human services to create a rich tapestry of culture, religion and art, two new reports say.

One in five residents in metropolitan Washington, D.C. is foreign-born, and three-quarters of the area’s 1.1 million immigrants are Asian or Latino, say two reports from the Urban Institute that profile ethnic nonprofits that serve the city’s immigrants.

The analyses take a look at a cross-section of ethnic nonprofits whose creation and demise follow waves of migration to the U.S. capital as new groups of immigrants gradually replace the old.

Boom years in the growth of immigrant populations from Latin America and the Caribbean between 1991 and 2005 led to a 150 percent increase in nonprofits serving Latinos, according to the Institute’s report on Latino nonprofits.

Almost two in three groups interviewed in a second study on nonprofits serving Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans and mixed immigrant populations were founded in the same years.

But 45 percent of African- and Asian-centric nonprofits were established in the 1970s and 80s, reflecting those populations’ earlier arrival to the region, the second study says.

Most ethnic nonprofits are fairly small, the Urban Institute studies say, with half of those serving Latinos in the D.C. area reporting budgets under $500,000 and assets below $200,000.

Nonprofits serving other nationalities reported median assets of less than $50,000 and revenues under $121,900.

The reports also contradict a common perception that most ethnic nonprofits focus on human services: Cultural awareness was the predominant activity among groups serving more-established immigrant populations.

Latino groups, which work largely with more recent arrivals, tended to focus on education, child and youth services, and support on immigration matters.

Another common misconception, that most ethnic nonprofits are concentrated in city centers, also is unfounded, the reports say.

Ethnic nonprofits are scattered throughout the metro-D.C. area, with over 70 percent of those serving Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans and mixed-immigrant groups in Virginia and Maryland.

However, though nine in 10 Latinos live in Maryland or Virginia suburbs, fewer than four in 10 nonprofits that work with this demographic group are headquartered in suburbia.

Yet newer organizations increasingly are following their constituents and making their homes outside city limits, the reports say.

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