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Hispanics help others through informal channels on average more than other Americans, says report

According to a study published by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, 16% of Hispanic households gave informally, on average, from 2000 to 2018, compared to only 12.6% of other households

Hispanic man embracing American flag
Hispanic man embracing American flag | Shutterstock

September 27, 2023 9:33am

Updated: September 27, 2023 9:33am

A new study suggests that Hispanic Americans make their charitable contributions through less formal channels, often helping those who need assistance directly instead of through established organizations. The report also found that while Latinos help many through informal channels, their contributions to established charities declined from 2000-2018.

The findings were discovered as part of a report last week that was published by Hispanics in Philanthropy, an organization that works to advance Latino giving, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

According to the report, the number of Hispanic Americans contributing to registered has fallen significantly since 2008, a fact which is also true for other Americans, but proportionately, the percentage of Hispanics who give to help people in need through informal channels is higher than others in the U.S.

Hispanics in Philanthropy found that while 44% of Latinos contributed to established charitable organizations in 2018, that number dropped by 18% to a total of 26% in 2018.

For other Americans who are not of Hispanic ancestry, only half of the households polled gave in 2018, compared with two thirds in 2000.

The report attributes the decline in formal charitable contributions to the slower economic growth for Hispanics, now ranked as the nation’s second largest ethnic group totaling over 62 million, according to the Pew Research Center.

While income has spiked for some across the country in the last two decades, studies have shown that the average income for a Hispanic households remained steady from 2000 to 2018.

The report said that while income has had slow growth for other groups as well, many of them started with higher income levels than Latino families.

Although the rate of Hispanic household contribution to established charities has declined, the report suggests that Latinos are very generous in offering informal help to others.

Some examples cited were sending money to family members in other countries, funding family members’ educations, and crowdfunding for a neighbor’s medical bills.

According to the report, 16% of Hispanic households gave informally, on average, from 2000 to 2018, compared to only 12.6% of other households. That number does not include families giving to members in the same household.

Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School, who worked on the report, told the Associated Press that when traditional charitable donations were compounded with informal giving, Hispanic Americans give more than non-Hispanics.

“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 told the AP.

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

The report found that Hispanics make contributions and help others based on their interests and values, especially those that revolve around supporting their community and family.

Their top four priority causes were:

  1. religious congregations
  2. food, shelter, and basic necessities
  3. health care and medical research
  4. education

For wealthy Hispanics, the top priorities were education, animal rights and health care.

Surprisingly, the donation rates did not differ much based on immigration status, which is also tied into wealth. Half of the Hispanics born in the U.S. donated to charity in 2018 compared to 40% of immigrants.

The study found that the length of time immigrants lived in the U.S. was also tied to contributions.

Those Hispanic Americans who had resided in the U.S. for longer gave more, especially to religious institutions and their fellow parishioners than those who recently crossed the border or emigrated.

The study showed that as of 2018, 23% of longer residing immigrants gave to religious congregations, compared to 19% who recently arrived.

The report used multiple sources including a school panel study and also a Bank of America philanthropy study, which both examined nationally representative samples.

It also included conclusions that sprung from focus-group conversations on Latino philanthropy with donors, nonprofit professionals and philanthropic advisers.

Researchers excluded remittances and money transfers to family members living in their home country.

Some nonprofit oprganizers say the data on Hispanic contributions is complex because of the cultural differences in how Latinos help others.

Gigi Pedraza, executive director and founder of the Latino Community Fund in Georgia, says Hispanics give more to people who aren’t blood relatives because they consider their community almost like family.

“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 explained.

Armando Zumaya, founder of Somos El Poder, an organization that promotes fundraising for Hispanic-focused nonprofits, said the decline in formal contributions to established charities may also spring from the fact many of them are not solicited for donations.

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

Part of that may also stem from the language barrier and the fact that many charitable organizations do not solicit others in the Spanish language.

“There was a time when people thought that engaging Latino donors meant: OK, we need to do this in Spanish,” said Ana Gloria Rivas-Vázquez, the director of Hispanic giving at Catholic Relief Services.

“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?”

She added that giving remains a significant part of Hispanic culture, however.

“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,” Rivas-Vázquez she added.

She told the AP that building relationships was an important part of donations for Hispanics.

Armando Zumaya, the founder of Somos El Poder said that more studies need to be conducted to get an more accurate understanding of just how much Hispanics give.

“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?”

Ana Marie Argilagos, CEO of Hispanics in Philanthropy, who also serves on the board of the Chronicle of Philanthropy said that researching the area is relatively new.

“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.