By Paola Cabero-Ireta, Graduate Student, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (Fall 2005)
Hispanic is the term used by the U.S. Bureau of the Census to describe persons in the United States who were born in a Spanish-speaking country (including Spain) or who can trace their ancestry to these countries. Latino refers to people of Latin America (Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands) residing in the United States. Although there are differences in culture and some may prefer one term versus the other, here, we will use them interchangeable.
Informal philanthropy in the Latino culture is characterized by one-to-one donation of time, talent or treasure to family, friends or church. In the Hispanic culture, family not only refers to parents and children, but it also includes the extended family such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even godparents.
Organized philanthropy is voluntary actions for the public good within the nonprofit sector. This includes making gifts or donations through organizations or foundations, in other words formal giving.
Remittances are financial contributions or gifts sent from an individual in the United States to a family member or agency residing in the country of origin (Newman 2002).
Latino donors’ motivations, interest and preferences are tied to their cultural background and their experience as immigrants. Historically, dating back to the 1500s, Latinos have engaged in informal philanthropy and social giving (Ramos 1999). However, they do not perceive such actions as being philanthropic, but rather as their responsibility and what is expected of them (Wagner and Deck 1999).
The majority of Hispanic immigrants come from countries in which the nonprofit sector is just developing into a formal way to satisfy social and community needs. Until recently, it had been the government’s obligation to oversee the welfare of the state and the church’s to promote charitable actions. When Latinos arrive in this country they are not culturally accustomed to participate in formal philanthropy (Ramos 1999).
For most Latinos, religion –Catholic or Protestant- is a very important part of their lives. Giving to the Church is not seen as a charitable contribution, but as an integral part in their commitment to God and His Church (Newman 2002).
The literature reviewed indicates that education, socioeconomic status, and acculturation are some of the major factors influencing Latino’s motivations and interests in giving. The more acculturated, higher level of education, and higher socioeconomic status the more likely Hispanics are to engage in formal philanthropy.
Latino giving is primarily family-driven and church-based. Service and gifts are rooted in the notion of reciprocity and a need to give back to one’s family or close community (religious or secular). Thus, it is not an uncommon practice for Hispanic donors to send remittances to family or organizations outside the United States. Remittances are the third largest source of revenue in Mexico (Newman, 2002).
Trust and identification are major factors motivating Latinos to give beyond their family and church. They need assurance that their contributions are used in ways that are valuable and meaningful to them and that, directly or indirectly, will benefit their community. In addition, Hispanic donors are more likely to give if they feel a personal connection with the cause, the organization or even the person asking for the donation.
In general, Latinos are not perceived as potential donors (Wagner and Figueroa 1999). This may be due to a generalization about Latinos socioeconomic status or their lack of participation in formal philanthropy. What many professionals overlook is the fact that Latinos may not volunteer or give just because they have not been asked to do so (Wagner and Figueroa, 1999).
Although generation and acculturation are factors that influence the motivations and interests of Latino donors, parental example plays a significant role in Hispanic philanthropy (Wagner and Figueroa, 1999). Children who grow up in a family where parents are involved in their community and participate in voluntary activities with their children will be more likely to engage in philanthropy.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Since Latino’s motivation to give is embedded in a sense of responsibility and desire to give back to their community, their interests and preferences in giving are directed to causes and organizations that will help advance the Latino communities. Hence, Latino contributions are targeted to causes that are valuable to them such as youth, education, and scholarship funds; health care and human services; religion and church-base programs; economic and community development; human rights and advocacy initiatives; arts and culture to preserve their heritage; and disaster relief efforts in their home countries (Ramos, 1999; Newman, 2002).
Even though the way in which Hispanics engage in philanthropy is mostly informal and family-church oriented, many Latino donors are now participating in different forms of giving to their communities. For example, Latino households are making more donations to charity and other nonprofit organizations. Also, wealthy and influential Latinos such as celebrities are now supporting mainstream (non-Latino) nonprofit organizations while others are creating their own foundations to support educational programs benefiting the youth (Ramos, 1999).
Key Related Ideas
To ask and inform are essential to engage Hispanics in formal philanthropy. Latinos are very generous giving their time, talent, or treasures, if they are asked to and informed on the ways they can best contribute.
Leadership and Respect: Many Hispanics participate in formal philanthropy to gain respect and leadership roles that will allow them to advocate and empower their communities. Participation in philanthropic activities and voluntarism provides them with opportunities to meet other influential political and community leaders (Estrada, 1990).
Trust and Personalism: Latinos are more likely to donate to cause or organizations that they identify with and that they feel they can trust. The relationship with the organization and its people is very important in developing this sense of trust and connection.
Important People Related to the Topic
Hispanic Philanthropy is a topic that has not been studied enough. There is a need for more research and for more people to get involved. However, there are Latinos (of different backgrounds and of different occupations) that have influenced the nonprofit sector making a difference in both the Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities through their Philanthropy.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
Related Web Sites
The Chicago Community Trust, at www.cct.org, offers opportunities and resources for Latinos donors to make contributions in different ways that will help advance the Hispanic community in Chicago.
Independent Sector web site, at www.independentsector.org, makes available research about giving and volunteering in the United States including the Hispanic community.
The Pew Hispanic Center web site, at www.pewhispanic.org, offers scientific research that helps one better understand the Latino culture and its increasing impact in the United States. The site also highlights different issues related to this community including trends in Hispanic giving and remittances.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Estrada, Leobardo F. “Hispanic Evolution,” Foundation News 31 (1990): 34-36.
Hispanic Federation. Abriendo Caminos: Strengthening Latino communities Through Giving and Volunteering. Accessed 13 November 2005. www.hispanicfederation.org/res/publications.html
Hispano Mundo. Cesar Chavez Biography. Accessed 14 November 2005. www.hispanomundo.com/CesarChavez.htm
Harper Collins. Speakers Bureau–Gloria Estefan. Accessed 14 November 2005. www.harpercollins.com/speakersbureau/Speakers/Default.aspx?SpId=92
New America Alliance. 2004 Philanthropy Awards Recipients. Accessed 18 November 2005. www.naaonline.org/naainstitute/2004%20Phil%20Awa%20Rec.htm
Newman, Diana S. Opening Doors: Pathways to Diverse Donors. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002. ISBN: 0787958840.
Ramos, Henry A. J. Latino Philanthropy: Expanding U. S. Models of Giving and Civic Participation. Berkely, California: Mauer Kunst Consulting, 1999.
Wagner, Lilya and Allan Figueroa Deck, eds. “Hispanic Philanthropy: Exploring the Factors that influence giving and asking,” New Directions for Philanthropy Fundraising 24 (1999).