Latino Philanthropy

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
South America
The Latino community has had a long-standing tradition of giving, which is generally done through organizations or causes that are close to the hearts of the individuals. Informal giving has been a strong value of the Latin American community for more than 500 years.



Philanthropy is defined as the “voluntary action for the public good” (Payton & Moody). Voluntarily action is giving of one’s time, expertise, or funds. 

Hispanic refers to people who share the common language that is Spanish. This was actually a word adopted by the U.S. government in the 1970's to give people from Latin America a common identity, according to Associate Director of Latino Studies Mintzi Martinez-Rivera from Indiana University, Bloomington. The word Hispanic then includes all countries that speak Spanish, so it would exclude Brazil but include European country Spain.

Latino is defined as, "any person of Latin American descent residing in the United States," says Martinez-Rivera. Latino does not mean strictly Spanish speakers but instead those from Latin America. This word use would include Brazil but exclude Spain.

Hispanic and Latino are often thought to be interchangeable. Latin America is filled with many countries of people from many different races. Over the centuries of immigration and colonization, many people from European, Asian, and African descent made Latin American countries their home.

For the purpose of this paper we are focusing on the Latin American community which includes Brazil but doesn’t include Spain; therefore Latino is the most appropriate word to encompass the many different Latin cultures. 

Historic Roots

The Latino community has had a long-standing tradition of giving, which is generally done through sending money to family or giving to the church. Latino culture is very family-oriented. Many people in the Latino community still have strong ties to the communities were their families originated, and/or where they still have family.  It is very common to see the money that could potentially go to non-profit organizations or foundations sent back home to aid the rest of the family. In 2015 a total of $68 billion was sent to Latin America and the Caribbean according to the Wall Street Journal (Wall Street Journal)

The Catholic Church’s role in Latin America was the primary vehicle for charitable giving stemming from colonization. In the 18th Century governments created and funded orphanages, hospitals, and mental asylums. A third level of philanthropy emerged in the late 18th century, as populations moved into urban environments, called voluntary associations. These associations are called "mutualistas", also known as Mutual Aid Societies.

During the late 18th and throughout the 19th century, many Latino communities emerged in the U.S. Many key factors contributed to the immigration from Latin America to the U.S.: the annexation of Mexican territory; immigrants from the Caribbean; the Mexican revolution of 1910; immigration from Puerto Rico and Cuba to Florida and New York; and civil war in Colombia in 1960. During this period of time these Latin American communities had three key areas of giving: charitable giving to the Catholic Church; remittance to families back in country of origin; and mutialistas and organizations/clubs focusing on anti-discrimination. Still, the impact of the central role of the Catholic Church and Latin governments in philanthropy had an effect on Latin Americans and caused charitable giving to be a new emerging topic among Latin communities (Chronicle of Philanthropy).


“Over the past decade (1999-2009), U.S. foundation dollars intended to benefit Latinos have remained steady, comprising about 1 percent of total foundation funding, even as the Latino population in the U.S. has grown significantly over the same period. From 2007 to 2009, an average of $206 million in grants per year was directed to Latinos. according to the Foundation Funding for Hispanics/Latinos provided by The Foundation Center in collaboration with Hispanics in Philanthropy.  Even though it seems that the Latino community is receiving a large sum of money, the growing Hispanic community should be considered.  According to the 2010 Census, there are now over 50.5 million Latinos in the United States.  It is predicted that by the year 2050, there will be over 106 million people who are Hispanic, which is one in four Americans (Census).

By dividing the population of Latinos by the funding that they received in 2009, it averages out to $4.08 per person.  Unfortunately, because that amount of money is so low per person, related organizations and causes are having a hard time trying to survive and make an impact on their communities.  As the population continues to rise in numbers, it is vital that not only the Latino community, but especially foundations, increase their giving in order to support this culture.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Strategically planned Latino giving helps to strengthen the Latino community’s voice and influence as members of society.  Focusing their philanthropy on specific aspects of the Latino community helps to bring attention to their community and their needs.

A 2016 article by Nonprofit Pro, Hispanic America cracking fundraising barrier says that 63% of Spanish speaking households gave to charity in 2015 (Norris 2016). A Blackbaud study, Diversity in Giving in 2015 shows the primary areas of Latino giving. It found that Latino households give primarily to places of worship, childrens' charities, and health. Yet the largest source of Latino philanthropy is “informally” to individuals, such as family and friends, rather than to organized charities (Blackbaud).

Unfortunately, because the foundation world has not embraced this culture as an integral piece of their organizations, there is a disconnect between the community and the philanthropic world.  One of the main reasons this has happened is that the philanthropic world is not taking the time to educate the Latino community about the benefits philanthropy could have on their community.  This lack of embrace causes the Latino population to be very cautious, as well as maintain a sense of distrust of philanthropic vehicles.

Currently, the Latino population looks to solve the immediate problems in their communities and society.  Long-range planning has not been a focus in the past, but many understand it to be necessary to move forward for increased impact.  One key example of this increased interest in long term strategies is seen in Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP). It “is the first and only bilingual crowdfunding site focused solely on advancing Latino social impact projects and promoting philanthropy across the Americas” (HIP).

Key Related Ideas

  • African-American Philanthropy:  As a forerunner to Hispanic philanthropy efforts in the United States, many of the lessons learned from African American philanthropic initiatives should be shared with people who are working to engage the Hispanic community.  Even though they are distinctly different cultures, there are common elements that impact how they approach the concept of giving and how they define what is important to them. Once an understanding of family and community structures and the importance of heritage had developed, foundations were successful in partnering with the African-American community in supporting nonprofits organizations focused on the issues that concerned them most and made the greatest impact.  
  • Education of the Hispanic Community on Philanthropy:  When starting to work with the Hispanic community, foundations must focus their beginning efforts on educating the target community about philanthropy, what it means, and how it can benefit their culture. It is equally important for grantmakers to understand the distinctive cultural differences of the populations they are working with in an effort to build trusting relationships.
  • History of the Hispanic Culture: If foundations do not have a deep understanding of the Hispanic culture, it will be extremely difficult to engage Hispanics in philanthropy.  It is fundamental to understand the way the Hispanic community views history, education, art, and culture as juxtaposed against the mainstream view of American culture and societal norms. Only after understanding their heritage and what is important to them will foundations be able to successfully begin to develop relationships.


Important People Related to the Topic

  • Aida Rodriguez (1977-  ), a professor at the University of Massachusetts, is “nationally recognized as a leader in the philanthropic sector”. She received the Council on Foundations’ 2003 Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking for her work in helping establish a 90 foundation collaboration to support Latino communities. She is an expert in community development and she also served as an advisor to philanthropic initiatives in the U.S. and in Latin America. She also just received thr 2017 HIP Giver Award, for tirelessly advocating for Latinos throughout her career.
  • Carlos Slim (1940-  ): The world’s richest man is number five of the world's biggest givers and the first outside of the top four who are all from the United States, according to Forbes. Slim is CEO of multiple companies and has stock in a conglomerate of Mexican companies. He accounts for 40% of accounts on the Mexican stock exchange. His philanthropic interests are pursued through the Carlos Slim Foundation, Telmex Foundation, and the Foundation of Mexico City Historic Centre.
  • Cesar Chavez (1927-1993):  Chavez was a Mexican American labor activist and leader of the United Farm Workers. During the 20th century, he was a leading voice for migrant farm workers (people who move from place to place in order to find work). His tireless leadership focused national attention on these laborers' terrible working conditions, which eventually led to improvements. 
  • Edward James Olmos (1947- ):  Olmos is a well know actor who has been involved with many different non-profit organizations through the years.  His involvement includes community service, serving on boards, speaking at events, etc.  A few of the organizations he has been involved with include Hole in the Wall Gang, Foundation for Advancement in Science and Education, and the Plaza de la Raza.
  • Herman Gallegos:  Gallegos is one of the pioneers of the Latino philanthropic movement.  The legacy of his contributions to civil rights include the founding of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).  A few years before his death, Dr. Ernesto Galarza donated all of his files to Stanford. Several renowned scholars including Gallegos, conduct research based on his materials in the special collections archive at Stanford University's Green Library. 


Related Nonprofit Organizations 

  • The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) was founded in 1986, and is one of the most influential advocacy organizations in the nation representing 14 national Hispanic organizations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Their mission is to advance the inclusion of Hispanics in Corporate America at a level commensurate with our economic contributions. To that end, HACR focuses on four areas of corporate social responsibility and market reciprocity: Employment, Procurement, Philanthropy, and Governanc (
  • The Hispanic Federation (HF) was founded in 1990 to strengthen, support, and develop institutions that advance the quality of life for Latino New Yorkers. Thirteen years later, the HF advocates for increased comprehensive health and human services in the Hispanic community within the tri-state area ( 
  • Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) is an association of more than 450 U.S. and Latin American grantmakers and nonprofit leaders committed to increasing  philanthropic support of Latino communities and to promoting greater participation by Hispanics within organized philanthropy. HIP brings to the collaborative a strong network of individuals with experience in collaboration within Latino communities (
  • The Pew Hispanic Center provides resources and news aimed at improving understanding of the diverse Hispanic population in the United States and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the nation.  Publications include, “The Wealth of Hispanic Households", “Latino Labor Report, 2004: Wage Growth Lags Gains in Employment",  “Changing Channels and Crisscrossing Culture: A Survey of Latinos on the News Media", and much more (


Reflection Question - Given the steady rise of the Latino population in the U.S. and the low amount of philanthropic action towards the Latino community, how can nonprofits working in a Latino community receive adequate and stable funding to support charity efforts such as a food pantry, tutoring center, and other community-building charities?



  • Blackbaud. Diversity in Giving.         
  • Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP). About.
  • Norris, Sean. "Hispanic America Cracking fundraising Barrier." Nonprofit Pro, September 22, 2016.
  • Payton L. Robert and Michael P. Moody. Understanding Philanthropy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008, 6.
  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Latino Philanthropy Literature Review.
  • U.S. Census Bureau. US Census 2010.
  • Wall Street Journal. Remittances to Latin America Caribbean hit 68.3 Billion in 2015. 


This paper was developed by students taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University in 2017. It is offered by Learning To Give and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.