Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research (HACER) is a community-based research organization whose mission is to provide the Minnesota Latine community the ability to create and control information about itself in order to affect institutional decisions and public policy.
Founded in 1988, HACER has refined their community-based research approach, and over time, they grew to offer workshops, host focus groups, develop programs, and more.
“We grew steadily for many years because as more and more people heard about the work we were doing, the more they wanted to be involved,” Rodolfo Gutierrez, Executive Director of HACER said.
In 2019, they were poised for strategic growth as they began to take on new projects and initiatives that were going to span multiple years. In 2018, the organization was selected for Propel’s Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program, which provides infrastructure funding and technical assistance to organizations. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, HACER became a go-to community partner for the Minnesota Department of Public Health and other organizations to get essential, timely, and correct information to the Minnesota Latine community across the state.
“It has been very busy, and we needed to add staff; we have been organizing vaccination clinics, testing events, distributing information, offering facemasks and hand sanitizers at every event,” Gutierrez said. “All of this has been in addition to the work we were already doing or planning to do.”
Rising to the Occasion
Over the past two years, HACER has gone from 4-5 staff to 16. With that has come an increased budget and the need for strong accounting and reporting systems. Having worked with Propel in the past, Gutierrez knew the accounting & finance consulting team at Propel could help the organization ensure they were prepared for the required reporting and accounting that comes with such rapid growth.
“Propel has been there for us in many important moments: they’ve connected us to other organizations, helped us troubleshoot technical issues, and worked with us and our board to feel sure about how we wanted to grow strategically,” Gutierrez said.
Guiterrez and HACER’s Administrative Director Gaby Hanzel have been working with Propel accounting & finance consultant John Skillings as HACER grew rapidly.
“Our organizational transformation was supposed to not be as fast as it ended up being, but it started so quickly, and we rose to the occasion,” Hanzel said. “We also recognized that with this growth, we were going to need to be able to handle more reporting, so we called John who in the past had helped us set up our Quickbooks, understand our cash flow, and make projections for future growth.”
Skillings has been working with the organization through Propel’s Financial Insights Coaching – where he is available to answer questions as they arise, and work one-on-one with Hanzel on a monthly basis to ensure their accounting systems are in order and to help them prepare for their first-ever organizational audit.
“We have a long history of working with Propel,” Guiterrez said.
“Yes, and I wouldn’t be here without John Skillings,” Hanzel joked.
If you are interested in supporting HACER, there are many ways to be involved; they currently have 35 active projects including an Oral History of Lake Street and projects and programs with the YWCA in Minneapolis.