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Purdue University: Latino Donors – Motivations, Preferences, and Interests

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.

By Paola Cabero-Ireta, Graduate Student, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (Fall 2005)

Definition

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).

Historic Roots

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.

Importance

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.

  • Cesar Chavez (1927–1993): Chavez, a Mexican-American, who lived through the depression times, became one of the most influential advocates for agricultural workers’ rights. Influenced by the teachings and philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi, he used non-violent methods to promote social change. He was for four years the director of the Community Service Organization (CSO), an organization seeking better living conditions for migrant workers. Years later, he founded the National Farm Worker Associations that later became the United Farm Workers. From his efforts, in 1975, the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first bill of rights for farm workers in the United States, was passed (Hispano Mundo).
  • H. Frank Dominguez (1945 – present): Frank Dominguez was a businessman in real estate. He established Vanir Group Companies, a construction company. He served three terms on California’s Commission for Economic -Development and on advisory councils and committees for various past US presidents. Being born in a humble family, he learned from his parents the value of hard work and doing-good for others. In honor of his generosity and philanthropic activities, such as giving food baskets for Thanksgiving and presents for Christmas to poor families, now the New America Alliances awards every year the H. Frank Dominguez Philanthropist of the Year Award to Latinos contributing to the advancement of Latino communities (New America Alliances).
  • Gloria Estefan (1957 – present): Estefan, born in Cuba and raised in the United States, is a well-known international pop singer. She has not only received awards for her many accomplishments as an artist, but also for her humanitarian and philanthropic work. President George H. W. Bush has honored her for her anti-drug efforts. The Alexis de Tocqueville Society awarded her the United Way Outstanding Philanthropy Award in 1993. The City of Hope, one of her favorite charities, in 2004 presented her with the Spirit of Life Award in recognition of her contributions to the Hispanic community. In addition, Estefan has also founded the Gloria Estefan Foundation aimed to promote good health, education, and cultural development of underserved areas of society (Harper Collins).
  • Jorge Gilberto Ramos Avalos (1958 – present): Ramos, one of the twenty-five most influential Latinos in the US according to Times Magazine (2005), is the anchorman for Noticiero Univision (Newscast) since 1986 (Jorge Famos). Ramos, in partnership with the Panama-based Centro Latinoamericano de Presna (Latin America Journalism Center), has created a scholarship program that helps journalism students in Mexico and Central America to pay for their studies. With his example he has encouraged other journalist to do the same (Hispanic Federation 2002).
  • Jacqueline Weld Drake (1955 – present): Weld Drake, author and attorney of Venezuelan and Uruguayan background, is the chairperson of Casita Maria, a nonprofit organization, and a trustee of the Rainforest Alliance. She is involved in Hispanic social change actions and promotes Latino participation in philanthropy (Hispanic Federation 2002).

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • Coalition for New Philanthropy is a partnership of five leading philanthropic associations that seeks to increase the participation in voluntarism and giving of individuals and organizations of different ethnic background. (www.nyrag.org/coalition/)
  • Hispanic Federation is an organization that promotes philanthropy for Latino institutions and advocates for the needs of the Hispanic Community. They try to accomplish their mission by increasing Latino participation in political and cultural issues. (www.hispanicfederation.org)
  • Hispanics in Philanthropy, a membership organization, is the bridge between the Latino civil society and the organized or formal philanthropy. In a collaborative effort with foundations, corporations and individuals, it seeks to increase resources for Latino nonprofits and to address the need of those communities. (www.hiponline.org)
  • United Latino Fund provides support to new and developing Hispanic nonprofit organizations offering workshops and training and seeks to increase voluntary giving to improve the life of Latinos in the United States. (www.unitedlatinofund.us)

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).