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Don’t Let Generosity Get Caught Offside: How to Build a Culture of Philanthropy

By , and - Aug 29 2014

OffsidesThe 2014 World Cup that wrapped up in July put the spotlight on the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. Aside from just hosting the Cup, Latin American national teams captured the public eye, with Costa Rica’s top ranking in the “Group of Death,” Colombia dancing its way into the quarter finals for the first time in history, and Argentina representing the region in a hard-fought final against Germany. As a result, visitors to the region have commented on it all; from the host region’s urban and natural beauty, to its rich cuisine, to the very qualities its people are so well known for. Long and widely regarded as “kind,” and “warm,” these adjectives are prevalent in descriptions of the Latin American people as a whole, a people known for welcoming visitors with open arms, a smile, and a beijinho or besito on the cheek.

But though well-known for this generous friendliness, could it be that Latin Americans are actually not that giving after all? According to studies of philanthropy in the region, that may very well be the case. Though LAC’s businesses are booming, the region lacks a tradition of philanthropy, evident in philanthropic flows that rank below the world average. While philanthropy is on the rise region-wide, LAC’s donors must scramble to keep up with more traditionally “generous” regions like Europe and the United States. As millennials in those parts of the world, known for being far more socially conscious than their predecessors, take control of family offices, foundations, and charities in the years to come, how can LAC ride the coming wave of global philanthropy?

For your answer, look no further than Unidos en Red (UeR), a network that empowers agents of social change focused on Latin America using technology and communication as a means of changing the world. One of many great organizations focused on building a culture of social awareness and philanthropy, UeR rewards impact-driven actors with visibility, highlights philanthropic success stories, and attempts to make viral tales of generosity that can spark similar activities the region over.

It is to further these efforts that UeR is working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to, to put it simply, harness the institutions’ combined commitment to philanthropy to make serious waves region-wide. As part of the collaboration, UeR will work with the IDB’s III Call for Proposals for Civil Society Organizations by providing the winners well-deserved visibility. Moreover, this collaboration will include the development of a new platform for philanthropic collaborations, led by UeR and created in partnership with the IDB and Avina .  Slated to be LAC’s go-to-hub for all things philanthropy, the platform is set for launching at the end of 2014.

Generosity is ingrained deeply in our regional culture, and manifests itself in more-the-merrier party policies, hugs-over-handshakes greeting protocol, and an eagerness to share food, music, stories, and more with those from abroad. To extend this cultural generosity to philanthropy will be a stretch, but one worth working toward. Low rates of regional philanthropic giving, coupled with the small percentage of North-to-South philanthropy the region receives, are reason enough to build a philanthropic culture of our own in Latin America and the Caribbean. To accomplish this, we should continue engaging valued, traditional US and Europe-based donors, building a tradition of philanthropy on the ground, and reminding donors that LAC, a rapidly growing but still developing region, is a fitting and deserving recipient of philanthropy. Though this to-do list may sound ambitious, fret not. The path to a philanthropic LAC has already been paved by pioneers like UeR. To get there, we need only follow their footsteps, and invite others to follow ours.

**This post was originally published on July 10, 2014
**Available in Spanish/Disponible en español

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