Philanthropy Around The World: Spotlight On Brazil

While philanthropy – or private social investment as it is often referred to in Brazil – is maturing and becoming more diversified, its expansion remains slow. Experts believe, however that it has the potential to make transformative changes.

The largest, wealthiest and most densely populated country in Latin America, Brazil is characterised by a significantly unequal distribution of wealth. A staggering 10% of the population holds half of the country’s wealth while the poorest 50% of its population holds only 10%.

The history of the country’s philanthropic endeavours are closely linked to the Catholic Church, dating as far back as the colonial days when the church established voluntary organisations including hospitals, orphanages and asylums.

In more recent years Brazil has developed a dynamic corporate social responsibility movement and this has had a significant influence on the philanthropic environment. Currently corporates dominate the philanthropic landscape in Brazil which is problematic as their philanthropic resources tend to depend on the profits the business is able to make. There is an ill-defined line between private social investment or philanthropy and corporate social investment which has led to a lack of understanding of the differences between these two concepts in the public space.

The concept of philanthropy continues to have derogative connotations in some quarters in Brazil as a result of corruption scandals in the early 1990s which perhaps explains why there is not bigger uptake from individual and family philanthropy. The establishment of the Group of Institutes, Foundations and Businesses (GIFE) in 1995, including a code of ethics, sought to change the negative image of philanthropy. Acting as a private social investment membership network in South America, GIFE members have contributed over US$500 million, the bulk of it invested in education programmes.

Impeding the growth of philanthropy in Brazil is the lack of a legal and fiscal framework to promote donations and philanthropy. Added to this is the fact that non-profit organisations and social movements working on rights-based issue risk being criminalised, perhaps explaining why there is not bigger uptake of these kinds of entities.

A lack of trust in civil society organisations and a regulatory framework that does not encourage donations has resulted in limited grant making foundations.


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