Initiation of Research & Policy

Among the major changes that occurred at this time was the decision in 1975 to increase NCLR’s involvement in public policy, resulting in the conversion of the organization’s National Services component into the Office of Research and Policy Analysis. Moreover, the focus solely on Mexican Americans began gradually to broaden, as the organization’s documents began to refer to “Chicanos and other Hispanics.” This inclusion was made official in 1979 when, after considerable debate, NCLR’s Board of Directors affirmed the organization’s role as an advocate for all Hispanics. To convince the Board, Yzaguirre had argued successfully that NCLR could speak for the entire community only by establishing connections with other Latino subgroups, and that effective advocacy required a unified voice for Hispanics. Eventually, the bylaws were amended in 1984 to require numerical Board representation of the major Hispanic subgroups and regional representation of the Hispanic community based on 1980 Census figures.

Under Yzaguirre’s leadership, NCLR clarified its mission, identifying four major functions that still provide essential focus to the organization’s work: 1) capacity-building assistance to support and strengthen Hispanic community-based organizations, and to help them meet the needs of their communities; 2) applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy on behalf of Hispanic Americans; 3) public information efforts, which provide accurate information and positive images in the Hispanic and mainstream media; and 4) special and international projects which use the NCLR structure and credibility to create other entities.

By 1980, NCLR was in a major growth curve, with funding coming primarily from federal sources. Thus, when Ronald Reagan was elected President and Congress approved massive budget cuts that eliminated whole programs – including almost all direct funding for community-based nonprofit organizations and the technical assistance funds to strengthen them – NCLR was hit hard. In 1981, NCLR funding had reached a new high of about $5 million and it employed almost 100 staff; less than a year later, the organization had lost all but 32 staff and was operating on a budget of $1.7 million, virtually all from foundations and corporations. NCLR’s large-scale technical assistance efforts were most dramatically affected, since most had been federally funded. The number of Affiliates fell from 124 to 74, and about a dozen of these had no staff. NCLR survived by cutting costs and consolidating positions, and by relying on the private funding it had managed to accumulate, but Yzaguirre remembers this as “the most difficult period of my life.” The organization faced significant financial challenges until about 1987.

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