Grants to Charities along U.S./Mexico Border Drop Sharply

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April 16, 2012; Source: San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Sandra Dibble reports that cross-border giving, the philanthropic grantmaking of U.S. philanthropies to charities operating along the Mexican side of the U.S./Mexico border, has dropped—sharply. One reason is the continuing economic difficulties in the U.S. that have affected church groups and service organizations that would normally be more active in helping charities in Mexico.

Another factor, perhaps more important, is the continuing violence in northern Mexico which deters U.S. charities and American charitable donors from crossing the border to visit and interact. Richard Kiy, president of the International Community Foundation (ICF), says that giving to all of Mexico through the ICF has declined, but “the border is the area that has been the most severely impacted.” The executive director of the U.S. Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership, Andy Carey, says that donors are not crossing the border as much as they used to. “There’s something about seeing and touching the project that doesn’t happen. If you can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can’t live it, you don’t fund it,” Carey notes.

Is the perception of violence affecting the border real or overblown? Some charities in Mexico say that it is inaccurate, but that isn’t stopping U.S. charities from trying to minimize the risk. For example, the colleges in the California state university system, such as San Diego State University, have been prohibited from doing research projects in Tijuana since 2010, a decision attributed by one observer to the system’s risk managers.

If it weren’t for the drug war in northern Mexico that gets frequent newspaper coverage in the U.S., one could see the U.S./Mexican border as one long, relatively integrated region, with San Diego and Tijuana as components of the same metropolitan area, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez another metro area, and so on. U.S. charities such as the Synergos Institute have worked to strengthen philanthropic institutions along the border area, such as the Fundación Communitaria de Matamoros and the Fundación del Empresariado Sonorense, which has partnerships with the Santa Cruz Community Foundation in Nogales, Ariz. and the Hewlett Foundation.

We would like to hear from internationally minded readers of the NPQ Newswire. Are your foundations and charities giving to and working with your counterparts in Mexico along the border? More or less than before? Do you see the violence (and/or the reports of violence) along the border as being the main detriment to increased border giving by U.S. charities, or are other factors—the U.S. economic downturn, the U.S. political dynamics around immigration reform, or others—more important in explaining the downturn in cross-border charity and philanthropy?—Rick Cohen

  • Sandra Dibble

    Thanks for the posting.
    Perhaps the article didn’t make it clear enough: The drop in crossings has to do with a variety of factors, and these factors have varied over time and along different areas of the border. For Tijuana, the height of drug-related violence was 2008-2010, and many volunteer groups will tell you that even then they felt safe working in the region. With a marked drop, organizations continue to fight perceptions.
    Far from the border, it is easy to see it all as “northern Mexico” but here on the ground, there are sharp differences. Even the U.S. State Department Travel Warning now takes note of these regional differences.

  • rick cohen

    Dear Sandra: Thanks for the clarification. I was really probing the perception, as it occurs as you know here too. For example, Cory Booker in Newark is often stymied by comparisons of how “dangerous” Newark is compared to Jersey City and Hoboken, thus preventing the revitalization of Newark. Perception was what i was going for. Thanks for the great article.


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    1. We, wish to submit the following to you, the charitable organization.
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  • Nicholas

    Thank you for this article. I have started a social venture that will work to educate the abandoned children of Mexico through project based learning inside of casa hogares or “orphanages” starting in Tijuana and scaling more south. I think more than violence, benefactors are more concerned with transparency of the organization with violence a close second.