By Danielle Casola
The Latin culture has participated in examples of informal charity and social giving through family and kin networks that dates back to the 1500’s. Until very recently, government agencies and churches, instead of foundations and community driven-non-profit organizations have held the primary responsibility for meeting social and community needs for the Latino immigrants to the United States. According to research, “more informal and family-focused charitable activities have been part of the Latin American culture for more than 500 years (Ramos, 1997).
The idea of organized philanthropy, which is practiced in the United States, is still a new concept with this culture because Latinos come from the tradition where governments and churches, as opposed to private and non-profit organizations, have usually played the main role in mitigating social inequalities. Within the United States, the Latino community tends to give in informal ways to religious organizations, family members and kin; this type of giving particularly is usually in response to natural or economic crises directly affecting the donors’ family, communities or countries or origin.
There is an increasing numbers of Latino donors supporting community innovations designed to help both Latinos and the larger society. Such innovations include emerging Latino-focused community grant-making institutions; effective community-based citizenship promotion efforts; and mixed-use community development, childcare and arts projects (Johnson, 2007). A main theme in the Latino immigrant philanthropy tradition is their desire to address the more immediate needs of the Latino population they care about most. An interesting characteristic of Latino philanthropy is their personal nature of giving. The Latino population has a strong involvement in their community for charities that foster self help and empowerment within their community (Ramos, 1997). This article explains that the central motivating factor and importance of engaging in philanthropic activity was the sense of responsibility and their wish and desire to give back to their Latino community. They feel a special connection to causes or organizations that provide for their own ethnic communities because, “it is extremely important for Latinos to be more engaged as donors and volunteers in organized philanthropy…a way for us to gain expanded credibility and access to mainstream leaders and institutions, and to increase their sensitivity to our particular experiences and needs in that process” (Ramos, 1997).
Latinos take great pride in their culture, therefore Latino donors are interested in supporting cultural and arts organizations, exposing Latino art forms and traditions to a broader audience and making it more accessible within their own communities. They believe that exposing the Latino arts to a broader audience to be an important strategic investment in expanding the mainstream appreciation of Latino culture and societal contribution. It is through these projects that expansion of prospects for Latino leadership and engagement in organized philanthropy will flourish.
Latinos make up about 16% of the total population of the United States and they are finding that they are able to address many cultural issues through philanthropy. Unfortunately, very few Latinos sit on boards of trustees because they are still viewed as a marginal minority group by mainstream philanthropy (Falcón, 2009), making the charity that much more meaningful for this cultural group. The Latino population is growing and expected to reach 30% of the population of the United States, however, various institutions that serve that community are not expanding at the same pace to meet the demand because of long-term underfunding. This is the main reason that the Latino community continues its effort, hoping that their method of philanthropy will be fruitful in bringing forth recognition of the Latino immigrants and shed light on their issues to the general population; ultimately increasing an awareness of the needs of this particular community.
Falcón, A. (2009). Latinos, diversity, and racial fatigue in the age of obama. National Civic Review, 98(3),
Ramos, H. (1997). Latino philanthropy: expanding u.s. models of giving and civic participation.
Johnson, P. (2007). The philanthropic initiative, inc. and the global equity initiative, harvard university.