Philanthropy Around The World: Spotlight On Mexico

Mexico is a country struggling to address rising levels of poverty. More than 20% of its citizens live in extreme poverty
with one in three children suffering from malnutrition. It is estimated that around 34 million Mexicans live in
makeshift houses made of cardboards and reeds in shanty towns.

As a result of rising inequality, the past four decades has seen a significant increase in civil society organisations
focused on resolving social problems such as human rights, environmental protection, civic education and the struggle
for democracy.

The Mexican Centre for Philanthropy (Centro Mexicano para la Filantropia or CEMEFI) was established to promote a
broader and more inclusive vision of philanthropy in Mexico. Founded in 1988 its mission is to encourage socially
responsible participation of citizens and their organisations to achieve a fair, supportive and developed society.
Its programmes focus on developing a legal framework for the non-profit sector, strengthening the relationship
between the non-profit sector and government agencies, training and capacity building in the philanthropic sector, as
well as communication and research.

The non-profit sector in Mexico has made significant strides since 2000 to become more established and recognised
but still has a long way to go. One of the most significant advances was a government agreement to include tax breaks
for donations to social causes. Despite this, however less than a third of non-profits are authorised to receive tax-
deductible donations.

CEMFEI have identified a number of challenges facing the philanthropic sector in Mexico. The legal framework
continues to be a challenge while a traditionally paternalistic culture has hampered the development of a strong social
consciousness and philanthropic culture. The result is that Mexicans tend to wait for the government to play a role
and provide funding to address social issues.

A lack of resources and inadequate training provided to those working in civil society organisations means the
majority are not operating efficiently. This means the non-profit sector is not communicating effectively with donors
or society at large.

Another challenge facing the sector is that philanthropic organisations are not distributed proportionately with the
majority concentrated in the country’s three largest cities.

Although Mexicans are quick to volunteer during times of crisis, there is little awareness or participation in more
institutionalized forms of volunteering. In the absence of formal volunteering programmes, citizens typically lack the
initiative to pursue their own volunteering initiatives. In response CEMEFI has established a programme to promote a
culture of philanthropy and volunteerism which encourages individuals to dedicate one hour a week to a volunteer

While there has traditionally been little data available about the size, composition and economic impact of the
philanthropic sector in Mexico, efforts have been made in recent years to document the diverse aspects of

Encouragingly there has been a growth of community foundations in the last few years coupled with a growing
awareness of the value of corporate social responsibility both within local and international companies operating in

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