Every year, between September 15 and October 15, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. Government entities and businesses recognize the culture and contributions of those born in Latin American countries – particularly Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Belize and Costa Rica, all of which celebrate their independence days during that time. To understand why this should matter to churches and ministries in North America, I spoke with Ivan Leon, founder and chief strategist at the Kerux Group, a marketing firm that’s helping redefine how faith organizations interact with Hispanics. Here is his response:
Brands, politicians, and the entertainment industry already understand that Hispanics are a key engine for growth in the next 30 years. And they are making bold moves to win over this audience, from hiring executives with a multicultural background to shifting advertising dollars from English to Spanish or bilingual audiences, to producing content that is culturally relevant.
Unfortunately, churches, ministries, and Christian businesses have yet to seize a clear vision for how to impact the first, second, and third generation of Latinos that now call the United States their home. As a result, they are missing out on the opportunity to engage what is currently the most receptive and responsive audience. In conversations with nationally-renowned Christian leaders, I share the following reasons to show them why that is the case:
- Satisfy their spiritual curiosity
Hispanics represent a group in spiritual transition. The Pew Center found that almost 25% of all US Hispanics have abandoned their Catholic traditions and embraced Protestantism, or, in lesser degree no religion at all.1 The main reason for their departure is the desire for a more personal experience with God. Their religious migration is driving the growth of some mainline denominations, but it is also causing a seismic transformation in the demographics, worship, and theology of the congregations that they have joined (as well as those that they have left).2 The energy invested in exploring a new faith shows how much spiritual matters matter to Hispanics.
- Engage the most connected audience
Compounded with their spiritual readiness is also the fact that Hispanics are easy to reach, especially in the age of digital media. They surpass any other group when it comes to using smartphones, participating in social media, watching streaming video, and shopping online.3 This trend indicates that faith organizations must modernize their communication approach in order to engage this emerging audience on the channels to which they are tuned.
- Inspire their generosity
Contrary to conventional wisdom, a Spanish outreach can be self-sustained. The majority of Hispanics households earn between $40-100K annually.4 When it comes to giving, their generosity level is on par with Caucasian donors.5 But according to Diversity in Giving, 6 The study also cautions that traditional, direct response channels won’t work (back to the point above) and that the message must align with heartfelt causes or products that celebrate their heritage. Clearly, the shortage of contributions from Hispanics is not due to lack of funds or interest. Instead, it’s due to a disconnect in strategy.
- Impact the next generation
Hispanics form the largest and youngest demographic group. Over half were actually born in U.S. territory and are being assimilated into American life.7 They are the doctors, lawyers, scientist, journalist, and even preachers of tomorrow. Any organization that is thinking about propelling its influence unto the next generation would be wise to begin engaging them now.
If you want to start or improve your outreach to Hispanics, get to know Ivan and his team at the Kerux Group.
1 The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States, Pew Hispanic Center, 2014.
2 Rodgers, Darren J. Assemblies of God 2015 statistics released, growth spurred by ethnic transformation. Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, 2016.
3 Hispanics Overindex for Smartphone Usage. eMarketer, 2014.
4 Hispanic Market Guide, Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, 2016.
5 Damaris Montalvo, Top 10 Characteristics of the Hispanic Donor, The Journal of the DMA Non-Profit Federation, Vol. 17, Issue 3, September 2014.
6 Rovner, Mark. Diversity in Giving: The Changing Landscape of American Philanthropy, Blackbaud, 2015.
7 Hispanic America: Faith, Values and Priorities, Barna Group, 2012.