Empowering Communities, Investing in Change: Ana L. Oliveira

To commemorate Hispanics in Philanthropy’s 33rd year, we honored 33 Latino leaders who inspire as our 2017 HIPGivers. Read HIPGiver Ana L. Oliveira’s story below.

“Philanthropy harnesses hearts and minds: You invest in people, you invest in possibility, and you invest in the world,” The New York Women’s Foundation President and CEO, Ana L. Oliveira said. “You control a fundamental thing—the ability to invite and inspire others to shape the world.”

These are the values and beliefs that guide Oliveira’s work, values that are rooted in her own experience growing up in Sao Paulo, in what she described as “an incredible community of sharing, with the idea that there’s always room for someone at the table—a paradigm of generosity.”

For Oliveira, philanthropy is also a political act, an act of civic engagement. As the Latino community holds increasingly more power, Oliveira sees the need for Latinos to occupy a larger space in philanthropy. She sees Hispanics in Philanthropy as an integral element in this movement since, she said, it is “overtly bringing the importance of philanthropy to the Latino community and the Latino community to philanthropy.”

Oliveira has consistently fought to empower and increase the dialogue for those who are often left without a voice—mainly women and people of color, through her earlier work in helping to set up the Lincoln Hospital Acupuncture Center and as Executive Director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, both in New York City, where she also had obtained a master’s degree in medical anthropology from the New School for Social Research.  

She recognized early the power of collaborating with communities and individuals to appropriately serve their needs.

I had been working in direct service and policy for a long time. When you are on that side… you really get how important it is to be able to have access to resources that are helpful, strategic, and supportive.

Nowadays, she uses her experience in direct service to women and underserved populations to strategically focus her foundation’s philanthropy.

Since its inception in 1987, The New York Women’s Foundation has disbursed $51 Million and in 2015 alone, Oliveira oversaw the foundation’s disbursement of $6 million to invest in communities and possibility.

“What gets funded shapes the world,” she said. “The power of owning philanthropic resources is a power of shaping community lives and creating the world which you want to see.”

She also understands the increasing need for financial resources and the generosity of Latino communities who have long contributed their time, energy and money to help others.

Even though philanthropy isn’t the first word they would use, we work to reclaim it as an act that has belonged to many, regardless of financial tier.

“Latinos give generously with resources, but also share an enormous amount of passion and resilience in the world,” Oliveira added. “. . . We give warmth, we give possibility for people—it’s a different approach.”

Feeling inspired? Read fellow HIPGiver Janet Murguía’s story and let the uplifting vibes continue!