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Building Fundraising Awareness in Mexico

July 25, 2003

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  • Article available in Spanish here.

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - July 25, 2003) - When members of the three AFP chapters in Mexico attempted to incorporate as organizations, they ran into difficulty with Mexican government officials. They didn't know what the chapters were trying to do, and long conversations ensued about the purpose of the chapters, according to Carlos H. García Alvarado, vice president of the AFP Baja California Chapter and a member of the AFP International Development Committee.

This is one of several stories AFP members in Mexico can tell about trying to explain their profession to their communities, their country and their government.

'Fundraising is a word that does not exist in Spanish; there is not a term,' García said.

Even the name of García's chapter can be confusing: 'Asociacion de Profesionales en Procuracion de Fondos de Baja California' or loosely translated, the 'Association of Professionals for the Procuration of Funds of Baja California.' The 'procuration of funds' was as close as they could get to the word 'fundraising,' García said, but the phrase is still not understood or recognized by the public.

But beyond semantics, the work of fundraisers is also difficult to explain. Many Mexicans have a philanthropic spirit, but philanthropy as a sector is still developing - and is unknown to many Mexicans.

'It's something organizations do, but it's not something understood by the government [or the public],' García said.

Increasing awareness of the field

But the Baja California Chapter is working to change that, as it prepares to launch an awareness campaign to increase visibility of philanthropy and the fundraising profession. The chapter is currently holding meetings and making plans for the campaign, which may get under way this fall, García said.

The chapter plans to involve the other two AFP chapters in Mexico as well - the Monterrey Chapter and the Mexico City Chapter - and is receiving assistance and support from its neighbor to the north, the AFP San Diego Chapter.

The Baja California Chapter wants to first examine the views and attitudes of philanthropy and fundraising in their community, García said.

'We think it's going to be necessary to have a very significant part of these efforts [focus on] generating data of how philanthropy is perceived?to have an overview of the Baja California region,' García said.

Only then can the chapter begin to create a campaign that would aim to raise awareness on the importance of philanthropy and the work of fundraisers, garnering support for the sector as fundraising continues to build as a profession.

Fundraising in Mexico has gradually been developing as a profession in the past two decades, according to Susan Grilo Arana, past president of the AFP Mexico City Chapter. Before that, the Catholic Church and the Red Cross were the main organizations that had any organized efforts to raise money, according to Grilo.

Fundraising difficulties in Mexico

García said he knows of many foundations that are interested in supporting projects in Mexico but are reluctant to do so because they don't know how to move forward with philanthropic efforts or what type of stewardship exists, he said

'The greatest difficulty is distrust toward organizations and how the money of grants and donations is going to be used,' Grilo said. 'There have been scams in the past, where [individuals posing as] professional fundraisers raised money, but for their own purpose, and that has become a reason for people not to give. Also, the lack of professionalization of organizations means little communication and cultivation of donors. Sometimes people don't know what happened to their money, and they become gradually distrustful toward other organizations.'

Many individuals in Mexico donate to charities, but giving needs to be more widespread, García said. Giving currently is in mainly the lowest and highest income levels and in certain regions that are near large cities or large, international corporations that have a philanthropic aspect and understanding, according to García.

'People in Mexico give to nonprofits, but it's very segmented to parts of the country and population,' he said.

Awareness needs to grow not only in the public but also with fundraisers' boards and employers. Many don't see fundraising as a profession and can be reluctant to encourage or pay for educational activities or AFP conferences, García said.

'They don't see that we need to learn to work in a proactive manner and that there are ways and techniques to learn (how to fundraise),' he said.

AFP materials in Spanish

AFP offers several documents and professional development programs translated in Spanish for fundraisers in Mexico. The AFP First Course in Fundraising, which provides new fundraising professionals an overview of the development field, was translated by the AFP Mexico City Chapter.

The course has been offered in Mexico several times and has been highly successful. In fact, one First Course session hosted by the Monterrey Chapter attracted 170 people - the largest group to ever take part in a First Course session.

The Mexico chapters are also preparing to host The Survey Course: AFP's Review for the CFRE Exam, geared toward intermediate-level fundraising executives. The course was recently translated into Spanish, with the cost of the translation donated by the AFP Greater Houston Chapter, the AFP San Diego Chapter and the Milton Murray Foundation.

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