The CIELO Fund
“Cielo” means “sky” or “heaven” in Spanish. The name signals hope – sky’s the limit – and gives a nod to the aspirations, resilience, and dreams that define the Inland Empire’s Latino community.
The Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity (CIELO) Fund at IECF launched in 2022 as a Signature Fund celebrating the Foundation’s 80th Anniversary. The CIELO Fund’s mission is to uplift and invest in organizations, initiatives and ideas that are led by – and serve – Latinos in the Inland Empire. Leading the effort is CIELO Fund founder, chair, and IECF Board Member, Jesse Melgar, who, along with regional Latino leaders who make up the Leadership and Grantmaking Committee, have raised more than $1 million to jumpstart the effort within its first year. Over 300 foundations, companies, colleges, universities, organizations, and individuals have supported the CIELO Fund directly. View photos from the Fund’s one year anniversary event in September 2023 here.
The CIELO Fund’s main areas of focus are grantmaking, research, scholarships and narrative change.
At its core, the CIELO Fund was launched to invest in Latino-led and Latino serving organizations and strengthen Latino nonprofit infrastructure in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. To advance this goal, the Fund made its inaugural grant awards in 2023 to 25 Latino-led and serving organizations throughout the region totaling $280,000 in funding. 2024 grant applications are coming soon!
The inaugural CIELO Fund grantees are:
● Alianza Coachella
● Associacion de Emprendedores
● California Immigrant Youth Justice Coalition
● CARECEN – San Bernardino
● Casa Blanca Home of Neighborly Service
● Centro Del Inmigrante
● CHIRLA – San Bernardino
● Desert Sun – Coachella Latino Voices Initiative
● East Coachella Valley for Change
● Escuela de la Raza
● Galilee Center
● GANAS – Genuine. Animate. Navigate. Assist. Succeed.
● Get in Motion Entrepreneurs
● Highlanders Boxing Club
● Inland Empire Future Leaders Program
● Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association (IELLA)
● Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective
● Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice
● KVCR/NPR – IE Latino Voices
● La Red de Provedoras
● Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars
● Read with Me
● San Bernardino Community Services
● TODEC Legal Services
● Unidos for La Causa
Read more here.
The CIELO Fund’s second annual call for grant applications is now open! Grants range up to $15,000. Closing date is January 8, 2024.
The Inland Empire is a vibrant and growing region. Central to this growth is its dynamic Latino community which now accounts for 52% of the region’s population. Projections by USC show that that number is expected to balloon to 74% by 2060. To better understand the challenges and immense opportunities to drive the Latino community, and entire region, forward, the Fund sponsors original research with top academic and nonprofit institutions. The research is meant to provide important context facing the community today, and into the future.
In collaboration with Latinos LEAD, a nonprofit organization that promotes more inclusive and effective civil society organizations, the CIELO Fund released a new report in 2023, called Inclusive Leadership: Examining Disparities in Nonprofit Leadership for Latinos in the Inland Empire. The report analyzes Latino representation on 198 nonprofit boards in the Inland Empire. Findings highlight disparities in board diversity across sectors. The report found that while Latinos are 52% of the population, they only hold 13% of nonprofit board positions. Additionally, in Health & Human Services, 38.4% of boards had no Latino members, while Arts & Culture had 62% without Latino representation. Despite these challenges, a commitment to diversity is growing, driven by foundations and community leaders. The report sets a baseline for measuring Latino board representation and plans a follow-up in 2025, covering 1,933 boards.
Also in 2023 the CIELO Fund commissioned a qualitative report by the USC Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies called ¡Se Ve! ¡Se Siente! ¡El Pueblo está Presente!: An Analysis of a Region in Transition from the Perspective of Inland Empire Latino Organizational Leaders. This study offers ideas to empower Latino communities for the future based on conversations with select Inland Empire Latino organizational leaders.
In 2022, the CIELO Fund launched by publishing “Aqui Estamos: A Data Profile of Latinos in the Inland Empire,” with UC Riverside. This report uses census data to evaluate where Latinos in the region are excelling and where need exists. The Committee was guided by the report’s findings in identifying where funding might carry the most impact in its first round of grant awards.
Increasing Latino educational attainment in a major priority for the CIELO Fund. In 2023, the Fund launched the CIELO Fund Scholars Program to invest in Latino students attending Inland Empire colleges and universities, especially those intending to remain and work in the region upon completing their studies. The Fund awarded $125,000 in scholarships to 83 Latino students throughout the IE in its inaugural round of scholarship awards.
The CIELO Fund prioritizes partnerships with key media outlets and initiatives that uplift Latino narratives, stories and experiences.
In 2023, the CIELO Fund co-designed a media platform with KVCR/NPR and launched IE Latino Voices. This segment has featured dozens of local Latino organizational leaders who are invited to tell the story of their work and their impact in the region. The Fund has also partnered with the Desert Sun to feature Latino leaders in the Coachella Valley and is continuously exploring partnerships with local, regional, and statewide media outlets to tell authentic, positive, stories about Latinos in the region.
The Fund has worked with media partners to showcase its work and the work of grantees, research, and scholarship recipients.
Examples of the media attention the Fund has brought to the region
Why Support the CIELO Fund?
- Support Latino-led and serving nonprofit organizations doing impactful work throughout the Inland Empire
- Learn and support a better understanding of the issues impacting Latinos in the region through original research
- Combine your gift with others to enhance impact
- Network with other Latinos who are philanthropically-minded and living their passion
With your gift, you are providing vital support to Latino-based organizations that are working to improve social and economic conditions in the Latino community and join with other donors and funders who are committed to advancing healthy communities in the region for all.
As the Latino community in the Inland Empire grows, so should investments in the people, organizations, and opportunities helping our community thrive. That’s why we created The CIELO Fund – a fund by us, for us, that uplifts our stories and experiences while centering local organizations serving those who need it most.
Jesse Melgar – Founding Fund Chair/IECF Board Member
To learn more about the Fund, download the CIELO Fund PDF
Founding CIELO Fund Leadership and Grant Committee
Wells Fargo Advisors & IECF Board Member*
Executive Director, Alianza Coachella Valley*
Assistant Vice Chancellor of Government and Community Relations, UC Riverside*
Executive Director, TODEC Legal Center, Inc.*
IECF Board Member and Latino Leader*
Marisa Valdez Yeager
Associate Vice President for Government and Community Relations, CSU San Bernardino*
Helen Iris Torres
Executive Director, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE)*
Associate Vice Chancellor of Government Relations & Strategic Communications, San Bernardino Community College District*
Tomas D. Morales
President, CSU San Bernardino*
Diana Z. Rodriguez
Chancellor, San Bernardino Community College District*