A few weeks after Christopher Montoya’s family had taken down their Christmas decorations, he received another present. His grandfather, Ron Montoya, gave him a simple, white piggy bank.
Ron, the former chairman of the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado (LCFC), gave piggy banks to all four of his grandchildren. He’d received them from the LCFC as part of their “Cambio para el Cambio” campaign, or “Change for Change,” and talked with his grandchildren about using the piggy banks to save up their change, and then once the bank is full, donating it to a local charity.
“I like to show by example,” Ron says, “And I was excited to share and show them the philanthropic way.”
The Cambio para el Cambio campaign was born three years ago, when the staff at the LCFC sat together brainstorming. This was not an uncommon sight for them, as most of their work revolves around developing innovative ways to nurture strong and vibrant Latino communities around the state. This time, however, the team was out to find a more specific solution for an issue dear to Carlos Martinez’s heart.
Within his first few months as the LCFC’s executive director, Martinez had noticed something about the youths in the communities that he worked with: Most of them were not engaged in philanthropic practices. “That’s because no one in our Latino communities really understood what ‘philanthropy’ meant. We were never invited to be a part of formal philanthropy.”
For Martinez, who has been serving as executive director since 2013 with nearly 30 years of nonprofit work under his belt, philanthropy is a critical part of community building. In giving back to nonprofits or organizations within one’s community, he says, people become more invested in what’s going on in their backyards. “When people care, they are stronger and more invested in the future of their communities.”
Thus, in 2015, the LCFC launched “Cambio para el Cambio.” They distributed thousands of piggy banks across the state, each one with a list of questions meant to initiate conversations about what it means to give back to your community. The small banks encouraged families to tuck their change into the small slot on the piggy’s back, saving up little by little until the end of the year, when families were encouraged to pick a local nonprofit of their choice and donate the money.
After spending the past couple months collecting his change, Christopher, who is 14 years old and lives in Lakewood, says, “You feel better giving money because you help someone else… It’s the best way to give back to communities.”
In targeting youth, Martinez first wanted to dispel the myth that philanthropy is only for rich, older people. Afterall, there is no stipulation in the definition of ‘philanthropy’ that requires any age or wealth. “So many people think they don’t have the capacity to give, but we want to show them that no matter how little, we can all make a difference.”
Secondly, Martinez wanted to help equip parents with the means to develop philanthropic habits as a family unit. “Our biggest goal is to get families to start talking about what philanthropy really means,” he says. The idea is for families to build a tradition out of the practice, little by little saving up to make a difference that will last a lifetime. “This isn’t about how much you can give. It’s simply about drawing awareness to what is going on in our backyards.”
And, so far, the campaign has been successful. Though they don’t have the resources to measure the intake of coins across the piggy banks scattered across the state, Martinez says they frequently receive calls from organizations that have benefitted from piggy bank donations.
After Ron has watched his grandchildren absorb the lessons that radiate from the piggy banks, he says, “It’s all about helping my grandkids understand that they can do something to make a change in their community. I’m so proud of them.”
Christopher’s dad, RC Montoya, says, “A little bit of something is better than all of nothing.”
Once Christopher raises enough money, he says he wants to donate it to the American Diabetes Association. “My grandfather has diabetes,” he says. “I want to help him and other people with diabetes.”
Ron says having this opportunity to practice giving back to and strengthening his community with his grandchildren has been unique and rewarding for himself, but more importantly for them, too. “As a young person, when you learn, the lessons stay with you forever.”