In a country with numerous unmet basic needs and limited government presence in many areas, philanthropy has played an indispensable role. Although the financial resources of philanthropy pale in comparison to those of the government, philanthropic initiatives have covered gaps between established government programs. In some instances, philanthropy has even taken the lead in addressing some of the issues in question.

It is not enough to pay taxes. We need to contribute in other ways to reduce inequity and ensure that people in need have more and better opportunities. Colombia has made significant progress and boasts one of the most well-organized social sectors in the region. However, there is still a considerable journey ahead to align with the practices developed in the United States and Europe over the years.

In most cases, Colombian companies are family-owned, many of which have established foundations or non-profit organizations from their inception. These organizations have now grown into significant players leading the country’s philanthropic sector, such as Fundación Carvajal, Fundación Corona, Fundación Luker, Fundación Bolívar Davivienda, Fundación Fanalca, among others.

In recent years, family philanthropy has gained prominence, as many families have organized their financial strategies and networking organizations have emerged: Filantrópico, Family Business Network, AFE, and Latimpacto. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work in philanthropy has been engaging with family philanthropy, as it serves as a compelling pretext for bringing families together and involving newer generations. It provides an ideal platform for expressing family values, a space to forge a lasting legacy, and offers opportunities to strengthen the familial connection to societal issues.

Fundraising for nonprofits has become increasingly challenging as corporations and donors have structured their own philanthropic strategies. This challenge is compounded by Colombia’s transition from a low-income to a middle-income country, resulting in reduced financial support and decreased priority in the eyes of international cooperation. In the country, non-profit organizations serve as the predominant vehicle for social investment, with education being the primary focus area, followed by entrepreneurship and economic development.

With such context in mind, here are five key lessons that have helped me navigate Latin American philanthropy:

  1. Collaboration, rather than isolation, is paramount.
  2. Strategic philanthropy transcends mere monetary contributions.
  3. Having a focus is key!
  4. Increasing the allocation of resources does not inherently equate to a greater impact.
  5. Sharing lessons learned and best practices is critical to preventing others from repeating the same mistakes.

Read the full article about family philanthropy by Mariana Castro at Alliance Magazine.