The CEO of The Elevate Prize Foundation spoke with People Chica about her leadership role, her aspirations for the future and how all Latinos can soar.
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Carolina Garcia Jayaram
Credit: Nick Garcia Photography

Carolina García Jayaram knows she is not the rule when it comes to being the Latina CEO of a foundation. That's why she is on a quest to improve representation in areas of philanthropy.

Over the last two decades, the founding executive director of The Elevate Prize Foundation has dedicated herself to leading non-profit organizations whose mission has been to enrich and shape cultural communities and social impact.

"As a Latina leader in philanthropy, I know that I am the exception rather than the rule. Latinas are vastly underrepresented in leadership roles in the non-profit sector, despite the fact that representation is critical to a philanthropic organization's ability to connect with their communities and implement meaningful change," she tells People Chica. "We know from our work at The Elevate Prize Foundation that when foundations invite a wide range of perspectives and experiences to help address systemic issues, they thrive. This is why one of our core values is radical diversity and it informs all levels of our work."

Carolina Garcia Jayaram
Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for YoungArts

Before launching The Elevate Foundation, Jayaram led philanthropic and non-profit organizations focused on the arts in Chicago, Miami and New York. Among them, the renowned United States Artists, YoungArts Foundation and the Chicago Artists Coalition.

"After so many years working closely with artists and observing their processes, I have come to appreciate how important the link between culture and creativity is to fueling innovation and social impact," she says. "We must bring a wider perspective, include more voices and allow for experimentation and transparency."

Now, through her role at The Elevate Foundation, she hopes other Latinos will see themselves represented in leadership positions and will take steps toward establishing themselves as the leaders they can be.

"My advice for young Latinx leaders, particularly those just starting out and wanting to increase their visibility, is to align themselves with organizations and individuals who are working on issues that matter to them," she tells Chica. "Volunteer for those organizations, join their junior boards and work your way up. This isn't only a very effective way to become known, but also puts your perspective into action and opens doors to opportunities."

Through her work, Jayaram is spearheading the organization's mission to "identify, support, and shine a spotlight on social entrepreneurs solving the world's most pressing problems."

Elevate Prize
Credit: the Elevate Foundation

"Our end goal is to help build an ecosystem that enables everyday people to find, follow and celebrate leaders who inspire them to do good for the world," she explains. "By creating the world's first fanbase for social good and 'Making Good Famous,' we believe we can motivate more people from all walks of life to do good and integrate that aspect of themselves into their daily lives. Everything I do points towards making this happen."

On November 4, the Foundation announced the winners of the second annual Elevate Prize, which recognized 10 social entrepreneurs and the impact they've made in their fields — and provided them $5 million in funding, tailored resources and greater visibility to support them in solving important issues around the world.

"We receive applicants from all over the world, attracted to the 'no strings attached' grant of US $300K, along with the custom and intimate program we offer to strengthen their organizations across the board," Jayaram added. "Over the course of the two-year partnership, we work together to help widen their reach, activate engagement with their key stakeholders, build their brands and ultimately increase their exposure. Founders and CEOs of non-profits and public charities worldwide are all welcome to apply through our yearly application process."

This year's winners are tackling projects focused on LGBTQIA+ rights, access to health care, social justice reform and sustainability, among other issues.

In addition to the Elevate Prize, the Foundation has developed a new program, Elevate Giving, which makes philanthropy accessible to anyone who wants to fund social impact organizations worldwide. The Foundation will match each contribution up to $75,000.

"This experience allows for anyone to participate in philanthropy and collectively fund high-impact organizations in communities around the world. It is our way of democratizing philanthropy," she says. "For far too long, philanthropy has been seen as only something available to wealthy individuals. Through education and inspiration, Elevate Giving makes philanthropy accessible for all."

As she looks toward the future, Jayaram envisions a change in the way society views philanthropy.

"I am particularly interested in playing a role in solving systemic issues within philanthropy and culture. In 10 years, I would like to see a different kind of philanthropy – one where everyone sees a role for themselves," she says. "By building a fanbase for social good and 'Making Good Famous,' we hope to make this a reality, allowing more people to feel confident and empowered to act in their own communities. I strongly believe in the power of the local and activating neighborhood leaders to thrive."