Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Giving in Mexico

Posted on August 16, 2011

Philanthropy in Mexico Falls Short

Mexico, which continues to struggle with violence and political corruption, has some of the lowest charitable giving levels in the world, the Washington Post reports.

According to research from the Mexican Center for Philanthropy, charitable giving by Mexicans totaled only 0.04 percent of gross domestic product in 2003 — nearly forty times lower than the figure for the United States and lower than other developing nations, including Colombia and Brazil — even as the number of tax-exempt organizations in the country more than tripled, from 1,500 in 1995 to about 5,300 in 2011. Moreover, charitable donations from individuals and the relatively few grantmaking organizations in Mexico typically were made in response to a natural disaster, a crisis, or to a faith-based organization, the Post reports.

In a society where drug-related violence has come to dominate the headlines, one reason for the low level of charitable giving has to do with the understandable fear on the part of high-net-worth individuals of being targeted by drug cartels and kidnappers. In addition, rampant corruption among public officials has eroded already low levels of trust in Mexican institutions, leaving potential donors with a heightened suspicion of many charities. "Mistrust permeates the whole philanthropy world," said Televisa Foundation director Alicia Lebrija.

Some argue that anemic levels of giving in Mexico are an opportunity for large institutions and corporations to boost their charitable contributions and support civil society groups working for social change — even though the country's largest philanthropy, the Carlos Slim Foundation, tends to steer clear of social advocacy efforts. Indeed, Slim, the world's richest man according to Forbes magazine, has said he intends to fight poverty in Mexico by growing his businesses and creating more jobs, rather than following in the footsteps of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who have pledged at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

"The long-term trend is for corporations to step up and do more," said Michael Layton, director of the Philanthropy and Civil Society Project at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico. "A lot of the giving remains informal, and many philanthropists don't want to talk about it or take public credit. That may be good for your business, but not for the problems Mexico faces."

Miroff, Nick. “Charitable Giving in Short Supply in Mexico.” Washington Post 8/13/11.

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