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Latino charitable giving rates have dropped sharply since 2008, study finds

A new report found that 26% of Latinos gave to established charities in 2018, the most recent data available, compared with 44% in 2008.
Volunteers pass out information on the Covid-19 vaccine as people receive food from the 24-hour community fridge at the Mixteca community center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 13, 2021.
Volunteers pass out information about the Covid-19 vaccines as people receive food from the 24-hour community fridge at the Mixteca community center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2021.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The share of Latinos who give to established charities has dropped sharply since 2008, a new study has found. The same has been true for other Americans, but the percentage of Hispanics who give to help people in need through less formal efforts is higher than for others in the United States.

Those findings come from a study released last week by Hispanics in Philanthropy, an organization that works to advance Latino giving, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The report found that 26% of Latinos gave in 2018, the most recent data available, compared with 44% in 2008. The share of all Americans who give has also been on the decline: Only half of households gave in 2018, compared with two thirds in 2000.

One likely reason for the disparity between Latinos and other donors can be traced to the lack of economic growth for Hispanics, who are the country’s second largest ethnic group.

The average income for Latino households has stayed largely flat from 2000 to 2018, according to the report. While income was also steady for other groups, most started out with higher incomes than Hispanic households.

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Still, the rate of Hispanics giving to help others in informal ways, such as crowdfunding for a neighbor’s medical bills, funding a relative’s education, and sending money to family members in another country, are higher than those of others. Sixteen percent of Latino households gave that way, on average, from 2000 to 2018, compared with 12.6% of other households, the report found. (That finding excludes giving to members of the same household.)

Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School, who worked on the report, says that when informal giving is combined with traditional charitable donations, Latino people seem to be giving disproportionately more than their non-Latino counterparts.

“We find very much that they are givers, and not only givers, but you could even say punching above their weight when you look at income and wealth and education,” she says.

Among the other findings:

Osili says Latinos are “not only givers, but you could even say punching above their weight when you look at income and wealth and education.”

  • Latino donors tended to give based on values and interests, particularly family and community, and their top four priority causes were: religious congregations; food, shelter, and basic necessities; health care and medical research; and education.
  • For high-net-worth Hispanic donors, the top priorities were education, animal rights and health care.
  • Giving rates differed based on immigration status: Half of Latinos born in the U.S. donated to charity in 2018, while 40% of immigrants did.
  • How long immigrants lived in the U.S. also affected giving rates: Long-established immigrants largely gave at higher rates, especially to religious congregations, than recent immigrants. In 2018, 23% of established immigrants gave to religious congregations, compared with 19% of recent immigrants.

The report drew from several data sources, including the Lilly Family School’s Philanthropy Panel Study and a Bank of America philanthropy study, which both looked at nationally representative samples. The report also included the results of focus-group conversations on Hispanic philanthropy with donors, philanthropic advisers and nonprofit professionals.

Researchers did not include additional information about giving specifically to family members or remittances, which typically refers to money transfers to family living in a home country.

Beyond traditional giving

Some nonprofit professionals think the data on generosity of Latinos might not be accurate because of cultural differences in how Hispanics think about giving.

Gigi Pedraza, executive director and founder of the Latino Community Fund in Georgia, says Latinos are more likely to consider people who aren’t blood relatives part of their family, which changes how they might respond to questions about giving to non-relatives.

“We have this expanded definition for our people, and I think that’s reflected in some of the narratives but may not necessarily be reflected in the data,” she says.

Armando Zumaya, founder of Somos El Poder, an organization supporting fundraising for Latino-focused nonprofits, says that declines in giving also reflect the fact that Latino people aren’t asked for donations.

“We are under-engaged in fundraising and philanthropy, and of course it affects our giving,” he says.

The importance of relationships

Ana Gloria Rivas-Vázquez, who directs Hispanic giving at Catholic Relief Services, says that while all fundraising is about building relations, it’s particularly important for Latino donors.

“Because the personal is so important to Latinos, because we define family, generally, more broadly than some non-Latinos, informal giving is part of our culture,” she says.

Though there are commonalities among Latino donors, nonprofit professionals stress U.S. Latinos are highly varied in culture, politics, education and income. Fundraisers should understand how these factors, as well as others, like country of origin and language, can differ across Latino populations and shape giving.

“There was a time when people thought that engaging Latino donors meant: OK, we need to do this in Spanish,” Rivas-Vázquez says. “No, absolutely not. I think it’s a matter of figuring out: Are you talking to a prospective donor who prefers Spanish? Are you speaking to a donor who doesn’t speak Spanish at all?”

‘People don’t care enough to study us’

While other studies on Latino giving patterns have been conducted over the years, Ana Marie Argilagos, CEO of Hispanics in Philanthropy, says this one provides a more comprehensive and up-to-date look at trends. (Ana Marie Argilagos is on the board of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.)

Still, she says, more needs to be done.

“This is the beginning of the research, and we really do need to continue gathering more data so that we can continue to unpack the nuances of what and how our community gives,” Argilagos says.

Zumaya hopes that future reports will focus more on actionable steps for fundraisers rather than explaining philanthropic trends that have been explored in the past.

“You can count the amount of studies in philanthropy on Latinos on one hand for the last 40 years,” he says. “People don’t care about us enough to even study us. So that’s good. But it’s not the data we need. The data we need is, how do we get the $50,000-a-year family to give to the local community nonprofit?”