At the end of June 2015, the Hauser Institute at Harvard University released a new study on Latin American philanthropy in partnership with UBS: From Prosperity to Purpose: Perspectives on Philanthropy and Social Investment among Wealthy Individuals in Latin America. Given that there is a dearth of data on Latin American philanthropy, this is pretty huge.
This was my extremely professional reaction when my colleague emailed me the news:
The study explores private giving and social investment among high net worth individuals and families in six Latin American countries, and includes an overview and individual reports on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Each report analyzes donors’ motivations and aspirations; philanthropic practices and operations; challenges and obstacles to giving; and the types of support, resources, and policy reforms that might increase giving and strengthen its impact. It is available in both English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
It’s important to note, this study surveyed wealthy people already engaged in philanthropy, so it may not be indicative of wealthy people who are not yet philanthropists nor of broader social attitudes towards giving. Nevertheless, it is a useful snapshot of how current philanthropists are thinking about their giving.
Here are some key takeaways from the interview project, there will be a follow up post featuring highlights from the Chile, Mexico, and Brazil reports.
- Education is the top philanthropic priority across the region. Education at all levels is viewed by the interviewees as the key to regional economic development and reducing social inequality.
- Future funding priorities are different to the current areas being funded. When asked to think about the most important future roles for philanthropy in society, primary and secondary education a remain top priority—but social entrepreneurship was cited as the second highest priority, despite not being making it to the current top five priorities among interviewees.
- View of philanthropy is expanding. Historically, many Latin American philanthropists believed that education and healthcare sector was the responsibility of the government, but interviewees stated that they were interested in how individual philanthropy could supplement and drive change in those sectors.
- Outcome-based approach to social invest and agnostic approach to methodology: The philanthropists overwhelmingly stated that they were driven by a desire for tangible, measurable outcomes but they were not bent on particular method for achieving those outcomes.
- Lack of regulation breeds both creativity and distrust: Many philanthropists stated that they were frustrated by the lack of data transparency and professionalism in the non-profit sector in their home countries, and for that reason, they often preferred to run programs themselves, rather than give grants. However, interviewees also stated that the lack of regulation meant they were free to try out new methods and partnerships.
- Family philanthropy is tied to individual giving: Many individuals described philanthropy as a means of reinforcing familial bonds, especially in cases where a family business was sold or the younger generations were no longer involved in its operation.
- Impact investing is growing rapidly: Capital committed by impact investment funds in Latin American increased from $160M USD in 2008 to roughly $2B USD in 2013, representing 12-fold increase in just five years. Brazil has the largest regional share, followed by Mexico and Colombia.
Next, I’m digging into the individual country reports, so stay tuned!