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Community and independent philanthropy is present in several regions of Brazil

Mapping identifies independent organizations working with donations to civil society groups and movements that focus on the fields of social justice and community development in the country


By Mônica C. Ribeiro


Produced by the Comuá Network in association with PonteAponte, the mapping of thematic, community funds and independent community foundations working with donations to civil society organizations, in the fields of social justice and community development, identified 31 of them in different regions, with different priority agendas.


The mobilization of financial resources from various sources and the direct donation of funds to civil society initiatives in the above-mentioned fields are the main characteristics delimiting the scope of this mapping, which sought to identify independent philanthropic organizations. In turn, indirect donations, the processes of joint construction of public notices and ongoing communication define the forms of operation of this group of identified organizations.


The mapped organizations are established in 10 different Brazilian states and the Federal District: 58% in the Southeast region, 23% in the North, 13% in the Northeast, and 3% in the South and Midwest regions. This shows that this form of doing philanthropy exists throughout the country.



Common among them is that the donations made by the independent philanthropic organizations are rooted in the idea that the use of the resources as well as all the decisions should be made by the recipients of the donations, assuming the protagonism of their actions.

The mapped organizations contribute to agendas focusing on racial equality, indigenous and traditional populations, the environment, gender, sexuality, among others, prioritizing the populations whose rights have been denied historically.


The donation of financial resources – through diversified grantmaking strategies – to civil society organizations and initiatives has proven to be one of the most relevant forms of contributing to the strengthening of those organizations and of supporting those groups’, collectives’ and movements’ ongoing fight for the recognition of and access to rights, in a broad sense, of political minorities.

Within the mapped universe, organizations were also identified which work for the development of a specific local community, connecting its regional focus to the social justice agendas.



Emergence and profile of the mapped organizations


The emergence of independent local funds as of the 2000s implied a transformation process not only of Brazilian philanthropy, but also of civil society, as they arose as an effective alternative for the financing and strengthening of small and medium-sized organizations and movements working in the field of social justice and community development.


The 2000s were characterized by the retraction of international philanthropy and Cooperation, motivated by the notion that Brazil had achieved a stable, developing economy, as well as solid institutions and democracy. Surely, this process created a huge vacuum in the financing of civil society organizations and initiatives, which impacted their financial sustainability and, in some cases, led to the permanent closing of non-profit institutions.


Within this context, the independent funds that emerged during that period (between 2000 and 2010) filled a strategic position to respond to the funding crisis, as many of them were created by activists who started out with the social movements and, so, had solid knowledge of the field, its needs and demands, and were qualified to coordinate well with national and international networks.


The following funds were created during that time: Elas + Fund, BrazilFoundation, Casa Socio-Environmental Fund, Brazil Human Rights Fund, Icom, and Instituto Baixada. Considering the need to expand the financing of civil society and the successful model of independent philanthropy, as of 2010, a new group of philanthropic organizations began to emerge, inspired by the experiences of the funds created in the earlier stage, which, at the same time, contributed to their foundation and their development through the sharing of lessons learned and even through financial support, in view of strengthening and expanding the field.


Included in this group are the Baobá Fund, iCS, Casa Fluminense, FunBEA, Positivo, and, more recently, Instituto Procomum, Podáali - FundoIndígena da AmazôniaBrasileira, community organizations such as Fundo Babaçu do Movimento Interestadual das Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu (MIQCB), and Fundo Agbara.

















Base: 31 mapped organizations

Note: The sum shown in the graph may not be 100% due to rounding up.

Source: Mapping of Independent Organizations Donating to the Fields of Social Justice and Community Development in Brazil,2022

















Base: 31 mapped organizations

Note: The sum shown in the graph may not be 100% due to rounding up.

Source: Mapping of Independent Organizations Donating to the Fields of Social Justice and Community Development in Brazil,2022



The study shows that among the mapped organizations, 55% started their activities with the donation of financial and non-financial resources, 26% started their activities exclusively with non-financial support, and just 16% started their activities exclusively with financial donations(1). This shows that the independent organizations managed to set up their work very quickly to engage in the field of donations and in strategies to strengthen civil society.

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(1) 3% of the mapped organizations had not yet started their planned activities, financial and non-financial donations in August 2022.


The presence of these organizations in the philanthropic ecosystem gains prominence as of the year 2000 and has continued to grow with each cycle. It is worth noting that 23% of the mapped universe consist of “new organizations” that started donating between the years 2020 and 2022, which indicates that the independent philanthropy movement has gained new momentum.


With the rise in donor organizations, the agendas have grown more diverse as well. From the year 2000 on, agendas focusing on gender, the fight for racial equality and against racism, and community development have become more prominent in the work of the mapped organizations. It is at this point that we see the emergence of organizations such as ELAS+ Donating for Change, which focuses on donating to organizations and movements directed to women and transgender individuals, as well as Fundo Positivo, the Brazil Human Rights Fund, and the Baobá Fund.


Directing donations to indigenous, “quilombola”, riverside and traditional communities, as well as socio-environmental projects and family farming, has also gained traction, with the work of organizations such as Casa Socio-Environmental Fund, Fundo Dema, and Instituto Juruti Sustentável - IJUS, which operate in specific regions of the Brazilian Amazon territory.


The issues of culture, education, youth and entrepreneurship began to see a rise in priority between 2000 and 2009. However, it is with the organizations created between 2010 and 2019 that they became more relevant. In turn, it is worth noting that Fundo Positivo is the only mapped organization that works to ensure health rights, focusing on initiatives targeting STIs and HIV.


The study also identified new independent philanthropy initiatives such as university funds, represented in this study by Semper FEA, trade association funds, such as the Black Audiovisual Professionals’ Association (Associação dos Professionais do Audiovisual Negro), and organizations such as Instituto Procomum, located in the greater Santos area, and Silo - Arte e Latitude Rural, established in the region of the Serra da Mantiqueira, which mobilize and redistribute resources through community development projects in those areas.



Mapping expands knowledge about the work done by this form of philanthropy


Out of the 31 mapped organizations, 29 are formally incorporated and have their own CNPJ number; and those that do not have a CNPJ number were organized as funds within the structure of a sponsoring or supporting organization, which, besides acting as the tax-responsible entity, also contributes institutionally to the maintenance of the organizations, which, however, are free to act independently and assured their own governance structure.


While 52% of the mapped organizations have a budget between R$2 million and R$25 million, 32% have a budget under R$1 million. Among the sources of funding for these organizations, donations from international philanthropy organizations are more frequent (87%), although the contributions from Brazilian philanthropic organizations and other domestic sources are also relevant. 68% of the mapped funds and foundations assure that the funders have no influence over use of the resources, their decision-making processes, and governance.

Examining the budget ranges, we find that the distribution of the mapped organizations by budget is just one indication of the diversity that exists within this universe: 52% of the mapped organizations have budgets ranging between R$ 2 million and R$ 25 million, while 32% have a budget under R$ 1 million.



Among the organizations with budgets up to R$ 1 million, 50% are in the Southeast region of Brazil, 40% are in the North, and 10% in the Northeast. The distribution of the organizations by region and budget range shows a discrepancy, as 63% of the organizations with budgets ranging between R$ 2 million and R$ 25 million are in the Southeast region of Brazil and only 6% are in the North, even though the North region ranks second in the total number of mapped organizations. The Northeast region is also noteworthy for accounting for 19% of the group. The Midwest and South regions account for 6% each.

Among the focus areas covered by the mapped organizations, the primary one is institutional strengthening (74%), followed by gender and women's rights (48%) and culture (48%); topics relating to communities, local development and traditional peoples are also relevant, such as community development (42%), family farming, urban agriculture, agroecology and agroforestry (39%), and indigenous, “quilombola”, riverside and traditional communities (35%).


Civil society organizations that receive donations sometimes have difficulties accessing the financial resources since traditional public and private investments are not always distributed in an inclusive, flexible manner, to address issues with specific priorities and different ways of doing things. The assurance of their independence is a way of moving away from those arrangements, and it is a characteristic of the mapped organizations, where funders do not interfere in the destination of the financial resources or, if they do, their participation occurs on equal grounds with other actors, respecting the governance structures implemented by the organization.

Accordingly, we can identify examples of organizations that chose to work for this autonomy and independence and their relationship with the supported organizations. Through these examples, we can see how the very constitution of these organizations is based on the perception of the demands of the supported organizations or territories. These organizations work in partnership to support and ensure the autonomy and independence of the grantees, by establishing relationships of trust.


ARQMO (Associação das Comunidades Remanescentes de Quilombos do Município de Oriximiná), for example, established in the State of Pará, exists since 1989, and in 2018 it started making donations (grantmaking) to the eight associations focusing on the region’s “quilombola” communities. One of the reasons that led them to make donations was the perception that running the projects themselves, with the mediation of CSOs from outside the territory - which often have no contact with the local “quilombola” reality – did not generate ownership of the projects and lasting results for the communities.


Another example of the fight for autonomy is the Dema Fund, created in 2003 as a result of an effort to dismantle a scheme put in place by logging companies, which used the auctions held to seize resources extracted illegally from the Amazon to legalize the wood and enable its sale. The social movements in the Amazon were proposing the solution of limiting the State's actions, to prevent illegal deforestation and, additionally, demanding that they be involved in the discussions on the destination of the resources generated by the State’s actions. As a result, the Dema Fund emerged as a tool that provided its own, independent source of resources to strengthen the communities that protect the forest.


“From the moment that we make the financial contribution, we make an effort to visit the site where the project is being executed at least once a month, to follow the activities. Generally, there are about 15 projects happening at once, so we prepare a schedule and visit each one, which generates an important proximity, and the institution realizes that it can count on the institute’s support, not just financially, but if they need to talk, ask questions, so we follow the project through to the very end, until its completion, and that creates a fantastic institutional closeness. With most of the organizations that we have supported, we established a relationship that went beyond that specific project,” explained Elber Diniz, Executive Secretary of Instituto Juruti (IJUS), which operates FUNJUS (Fundo Juruti Sustentável), in the State of Pará.

Community foundations and foundations supporting initiatives with a territorial focus are the most likely to make on-site visits given their proximity to the communities. Considering Brazil's continental dimensions and steep transportation costs, visits are done generally on specific occasions or taking advantage of the participation of the funds’ teams in local events.



Budget,sources of funding and donations of the mapped organizations


The budgets of the mapped organizations rely on a strong influx of resources from international financing at all times. Even so, the participation of domestic funders shows that those organizations have inserted themselves into the philanthropy ecosystem and that private national social investment has the potential to grow.


Using the Mosaic data, on the GIFE (2) portal, we find that between 2014 and 2021, 12 organizations associated to GIFE donated to 42% of the mapped organizations. Overall, 14 projects were executed by organizations identified in this mapping, individually or collectively, using resources contributed by organizations associated to GIFE. Additionally, 10% of the mapped organizations are also associated to GIFE (Baobá Fund, ELAS+ Fund, and the Institute for Climate and Society).

As we can see in the following graph, 49% of the organizations donated up to R$ 1 million, and 35% donated from R$ 1 million to over R$ 25 million. Among the organizations that answered that they did not donate resources in 2021 are those that only started making donations in 2022 and those that had made donations in previous years and did not donate in 2021 for strategic reasons. The donation budgets of the mapped organizations in 2021 is quite variable, which is indicative of diversity in the mapped organizations’ donating capacity.


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(2) GIFE. Project database. Available at: https://mosaico.gife.org.br/base-de-projetos




Additional information about the mapping study


The organizations were mapped using the snowball method, and by searching the organizations on specialized websites and news portals. The snowball method consists of a sampling technique that uses reference networks and indications when the subject of the study is undefined. The results produced are not exhaustive and do not represent the entire field, as the totality of the organizations operating in Brazil, which meet the criteria, have not been consolidated.


Despite the limitations, the 31 mapped organizations are the result of an effort made to include as many nominations and territorial diversity as possible. Out of the 31 organizations, 16 are members of the Comuá Network and 15 were mapped. The following is a list of all the organizations included in the survey:

Organizations Comprising the Comuá Network


Baobá – Fund for Racial Equity

Casa Fluminense

ELAS+ Giving for Change

Brazil Human Rights Fund Foundation

Fundo Brasileiro de Educação Ambiental (FunBEA) Casa Socio-environmental Fund

Fundo Positivo

Institute for Climate and Society (iCS)

Instituto Comunitário Baixada Maranhense

Instituto Comunitário Grande Florianópolis (ICOM) Instituto Procomum

Institute for Society, Population and Nature (ISPN) Redes da Maré

Tabôa – Communitarian Strengthening Association

Mapped organizations


Associação das Comunidades Remanescentes de Quilombos do Município de Oriximiná (ARQMO) – Quilombola Fund