Using Technology to Reach Spanish Speakers

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Hispanics in the U.S.

Latinos comprise 17% of the U.S. population and make up the fastest growing group in U.S. rural areas. The rural Hispanic communities are scattered throughout the country and often isolated from each other.

Many Hispanics find themselves marginalized from the broader U.S. population by language and cultural barriers; 67% of first-generation Latino immigrants still struggle with speaking and reading English.

Hispanic Access Foundation

Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) is a national nonprofit with the mission of building bridges that connect Latino communities with the information and services they need to build a better life. HAF brings financial, health, education, and environmental information to communities across the country. With Upleaf's help, HAF has leveraged technology and online communication (in addition to grassroots activities and Spanish-language radio) to reach an impressive number of people.

The Strategy

HAF knew that churches are often the social heart of Spanish-speaking communities, and that radio can reach over 93% of Hispanics, 12 years old and over. Hispanics are also increasingly connected to the web and social media via mobile devices, and online communication is an important strategy.

So HAF developed an on-the-ground, online, and through-the-airwaves strategy. HAF used these three channels to disseminate information, encourage action, and provide access to local services. Here's how it worked:

  1. Upleaf built a bilingual website and searchable online directory of Hispanic-serving providers across the country
  2. HAF assembled a strong team of faith-based partners around the country, who could organize meetings and workshops at churches and community centers
  3. Upleaf built a tailored CRM system to help HAF manage its team of partners, track event attendance, field calls to a Spanish-language information and referral hotline, and help with project management and reporting to donors
  4. HAF created Spanish-language PSAs to air on Spanish-speaking radio stations in all of its target markets
  5. PSAs referred people to the HAF website where they could learn more about events in their communities
  6. Upleaf launched multiple campaigns via Google AdWords (through a Google Grant) to reach Hispanics searching for information online
  7. HAF organized activities and launched educational campaigns, and tracked results through its CRM system

The Infrastructure


The Salesforce configuration enables the HAF team to:

  • Manage and document helpline calls and referrals
  • Organize grassroots events and track community attendance
  • Document media coverage and PSA placement
  • Conduct online surveys and pre/post workshop surveys
  • Send mass emails to partners, beneficiaries and other stakeholders
  • Send text messages to the community
  • Track activities and billing for HAF's large field team
  • Manage team workflow and milestones
  • Easily generate reports for managers and donors

We favor Salesforce because it’s affordable (the Salesforce Foundation offers heavily discounted licenses to nonprofits), reliable, secure, and is accessible from anywhere on any device. The HAF field teams across the country can access presentations and other materials and also enter participant, event and financial information directly into Salesforce. 

Salesforce is the headquarters for all of HAF’s planning, execution, monitoring, and reporting.

Google Apps for Business

Upleaf also set HAF up with Google Apps for Business. The beauty of Google Apps is that it is free to nonprofits and entails no maintenance cost. It offers an unlimited number of emails (no server or maintenance required), shared files through Google Drive, virtual meetings using Google Hangouts, and makes it easy for team members to collaborate yet work off-site. 

Another key part of our strategy was outfitting HAF staff (including fieldworkers) with iPads. Going mobile allowed teams to easily snap photos of activities, record video testimonies, access organizational documents, procedures and training, enter data and report expenses, all from the field and accessible in real-time by managers in Washington D.C.

Bilingual Online Communication Strategy

Because language is such a barrier for many first generation Latinos, our effort would have fallen flat on its face without a tight bilingual online communication strategy. It was vital that all roads lead back to HAF’s bilingual, mobile-friendly website.

Upleaf helped HAF develop an issues-based content strategy to be pushed out across the web via social media, email marketing, Google ads and organic SEO. The steady stream of content kept traffic growing, as did a robust set of AdWords campaigns that Upleaf created. 

Monitoring & Evaluation

Monitoring & evaluation was a big piece of the overall strategy, to keep tabs on how interventions were going. Upleaf deployed online surveys for HAF to ensure projects were on the right track, conducted a population-based study to evaluate a large CDC-funded project, monitored pre/post workshop survey results to ensure messaging was on-target, and tracked web traffic data to ensure SEO and Google AdWords were performing optimally. This monitoring gave us all deeper insight into what was working and what wasn’t, that we used to adjust the strategy over time. 

Results So Far

The results of HAF’s outreach have been impressive. As of March 2015, HAF had reached 1.5 million people in 18 states via mass media. 

The HAF network is also busting at the seams with almost 17,000 service providers in the searchable directory and over 2,200 faith and community-based partners. Their website is booming and their searchable directory has garnered some 117,000 visits (62% of which were viewed in Spanish).

HAF can rejoice not only in the success of their outreach, but in the money they didn’t spend doing it. So far they’ve received $336,000 in tech donations and grants (through SalesForce, Google AdWords, Google Apps, Vertical Response), a full 7.4% of their total revenue.

What We Learned

HAF’s success goes to show that a small (but plucky) team on a small (but creative) budget can make a huge impact. Online communication, a solid CRM and mobile devices can be leveraged to overcome the geographic and socio-economic barriers that have traditionally made some populations hard to reach.

This model is a great example for any organization working to reach rural or marginalized populations.