When Griselda Aldrete jumped aboard Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee’s staff as a program manager in March 2012, the organization’s membership had stagnated at around 400.
Today, that membership base has ballooned to more than 1,400 as Aldrete, now president and chief executive officer, has worked to dramatically grow student memberships and corporate partnerships.
HPGM exists to promote Hispanic talent across the region, as well as help groom Hispanic professionals at all stages for successful careers.
For her efforts to support Hispanic professionals through their development and career mobility, Aldrete has been named the recipient of the 2015 BizTimes Regional Spirit Award, which recognizes a person or organization that promotes and advances southeastern Wisconsin as a place to live, work and play.
Aldrete will accept the award at BizTimes Media’s 2015 BizExpo on Wednesday, May 20, at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.
Prior to Aldrete’s start, HPGM had primarily functioned as a social organization targeting Hispanic professionals in workplaces across the region. The organization’s roots stem back to 2001, when the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin took collaborative steps to launch it.
Under Aldrete’s guidance, HPGM has evolved to become more business-minded and rebranded into a business professionals’ organization, a move Aldrete deemed a “game changer.”
Aldrete also pushed for HPGM to become more intentional and accountable and stick to metrics so it could more easily garner corporate support.
Operating beside so many other nonprofits in Milwaukee, HPGM had to ask, “What is our role and what is going to be the space that we play in?” Aldrete said.
Among the most progressive initiatives HPGM has pursued under Aldrete has been an expansion of the kinds of individuals the organization considers professionals. That definition now encompasses students.
HPGM’s outreach to students is anchored by six student chapters at Marquette University, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Mount Mary University, Alverno College and Cardinal Stritch University.
Those chapters provide HPGM a direct funnel of students to track their progress, advise them on soft skills and financial literacy, and prepare them for internship opportunities that will act as resume builders.
The chapters support HPGM’s goal of helping more Hispanic students graduate from college and transition into viable careers, particularly as Hispanics enroll in college at accelerated rates but drop out even faster, Aldrete said.
HPGM aims to introduce additional student chapters to campuses in Racine, Kenosha, Madison and Waukesha.
By directing more of its energy toward student engagement, the organization doubly benefits as it piques the interest of corporate partners eager to tap into student talent pipelines, Aldrete said.
Along with working to draw greater corporate support, Aldrete has made considerable strides in growing the organization’s staff, now comprised of four full-time employees and two interns, as well as its revenue. For years, the organization’s budget hovered below $200,000. Last year, HPGM’s budget closed at $580,000, according to Aldrete.
HPGM has achieved additional progress by boosting fundraising efforts with a signature gala, and by diversifying its board of directors.
Still on the organization’s horizon is a push to strengthen mentoring opportunities between Hispanic C-suite executives and mid-level executives ambitious enough to pursue top leadership positions.
There is a “thriving” Hispanic community nationally and in Wisconsin, “and we want to be able to hone it, train it, package it and send it off,” she said.
Aldrete’s work through HPGM is shaping the Hispanic professionals of Milwaukee into the “leaders of tomorrow,” said Jamie Delgadillo, a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual and HPGM’s current board chairman.
Among her core strengths as a leader, Delgadillo said, are her ability to talk to anyone, no matter their position of power, and her genuine nature.
Beyond HPGM, Aldrete fills her days as a part-time student at Marquette University Law School and as a board member for a range of local and national organizations, including the national Hispana Leadership Institute, YWCA USA, 88Nine RadioMilwaukee and Cream City Foundation, among others.
Her involvement in a cross sector of causes reflects how much she cares for individual community members and the community at large, said Rolando Rodriguez, president and CEO of Marcus Theatres and a co-chair of HPGM’s 2015 Five Star Gala, which was sold out with about 700 people in attendance and more than $300,000 raised.
While HPGM is her primary focus, “she sees the need for other organizations to thrive within the community,” Rodriguez said.