Brazil: Philanthropy is growing and gaining importance

Brazil‘s foundation and philanthropy sector, at a glance:

Number of foundations: No figures provided
Main umbrella body: Rede de Filantropía para a Justiça Social (Brazilian Philanthropy Network for Social Justice)

GIFE (Grupo de Institutos Fundações e Empresas): Association of Social Investors of Brazil
State of the sector: Philanthropy in Brazil is growing, although slowly, considering the country’s economic potential. Most funders run their own programmes; there is a lack of a grant-making culture. The principal focus is on education projects, on youth, culture and general aid (e.g. shelters), less on issues like gender, social rights, environment, or equality.
Biggest opportunity in the sector: There are some interesting initiatives aiming to build up Brazilian philanthropy. An asset definitely is the important economic potential of Brazil.

An ‘education process for funders’ to open up their funding options in terms of topics and in terms of grant making or funding for existing NGOs.
Biggest challenge for the sector: Absence of a legal framework to promote donations.

Criminalisation of NGOs and social movements working on rights-based issues.


16. December 2019

Interview with Graciela Hopstein, executive coordinator of Rede de Filantropía para a Justiça Social, Rio de Janeiro (Brazilian Philanthropy Network for Social Justice)

Copyright: Graciela Hopstein

What are the three broad issues that will drive Brazil’s foundation and philanthropy sector in the next 10 years?
Philanthropy is growing and gaining importance despite the current political situation. The potential of Brazilian philanthropy is immense and there are both opportunities and challenges. We have a developed philanthropic ecosystem – which is good – and the number of donors is rising, but we still face many problems. Principal trends are as follows:

  • Corporate philanthropy is the sector that mobilises most resources and investment in the social sector.
  • The emergence of new actors and dynamics, such as family philanthropy and social businesses.
  • The scarcity of investments geared toward directly supporting civil society organisations (in other words, the lack of a grant-making culture), particularly for those that work in the areas of social justice and human rights, since the principal focus is on education projects, on youth, culture and general aid (e.g. shelters).

Which topics do you expect philanthropy to focus on?
Local philanthropy and national donors as well as individual giving need to be mobilised and developed in order to access more local resources. The fire in the Brazilian National Museum in 2018 with the resulting loss of cultural and historical treasures showed that support for recovering and reconstruction by local philanthropy is not very developed in Brazil (as opposed to the reactions to the fire in Notre-Dame).

One important strategic focus for the future is strengthening community philanthropy in order to give more visibility to its activities and to initiatives focused on leveraging community development and the sustainability of grassroots civil society organisations. Attracting new actors and (local) social investors to this area is also important.

What is traditional philanthropy in Brazil, and how do you expect this to develop in the future?
Philanthropy in Brazil is not (yet) very common compared to the economic level of the country. Most foundations carry out their own programmes; generally, they do not fund NGOs or other organisations. Traditional philanthropy is focused on aid (shelters) and on education, youth, and culture. Some traditional philanthropic organisations support, for example, think tanks that do not necessarily advocate for social justice. There are efforts to pass a law on endowments in order to unify conditions in the different sectors of philanthropy (which have been, up until now, treated differently, e.g. in relation to tax exemptions) and the regulation is badly needed. We hope to thus promote philanthropy in the country.

What role will philanthropy take?
As I said before, our hope and desire is that philanthropy will become stronger and more important in playing a strategic role for the development of civil society. It is also vital for the sector to stay in contact, to maintain a dialogue with and through the different sectors: traditional foundations, religious philanthropy, with the government, with the corporate sector. This is because debate is part of democracy, and this is very important in Brazil. All these developments take time, and it is a slow process towards change. But I think we are on a good path.

Will Brazil’s philanthropy be more nationally focused, or will it also be regional and global?
For the time being, Brazilian philanthropy is going to be nationally focused in terms of funding but international networking (e.g. through WINGS) and the resulting connections give strength. Solutions, experiences and methods used in other parts of the world can be inspiring and the exchange is like a window that opens to new perspectives. International foundations like Open Society Foundation (OSF), Oak Foundation and others, especially those based in Brazil, support many grassroots projects that do good work but find it hard to receive funding in Brazil for the reasons mentioned before.

Is there any other subject that you consider as vital for the sector?
In Brazil, but also internationally, new issues, especially those related to power, are emerging and will be part of the agenda of philanthropy.

Are there some developments we are not yet aware of at an international level, but which you see coming along in the future?
I would say one of the important subjects for the future is the fact that philanthropy still works and functions in colonial ways, which needs to be changed. During a conference with the Africa Philanthropy Network, we learned that, despite the different realities, we also have many points of connection in that respect and that we should strengthen the exchange.

If people want to get information about news and trends in the sector in Brazil, where can they find this information?

Compiled by Sabine Friedel

Next Philanthropy around the world

More experts on how the foundation and philanthropy sector is developing worldwide.
Read more