8 Things You Should Know About BRICS Diaspora Philanthropy

Image Source: SAEPR (Creative Commons)


The Resource Alliance has just released a new report on BRICS diaspora philanthropy, appropriately titled “Making a World of Difference: How BRICS Diaspora Give.” It’s a concise and thoughtful read, well worth your time if you’re interested in giving trends in emerging communities (and not just because APF’s own founding editor Dien Yuen served as a source.)

Without overgeneralizing, the report outlines the breadth of social and cultural factors that have shaped philanthropic patterns among the five BRICS diasporas (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). These insights can help the social sector better mobilize philanthropic capital and understand the barriers to giving that still exist. Here are my 8 key takeaways from the report:

1. Faith and family are two of the biggest catalysts for giving – Many in the BRICS diasporas like to give to churches and temples, but not all necessarily see religiously-motivated giving as an act of philanthropy. For some, it’s a means of moving closer to God or another divine being. So even when donors give to religious institutions knowing full well that their gifts may be channeled to something without major social yields, like maintenance funds, they don’t see it as overhead. Among Brazilian, Russian, and South African diasporas, giving to family members in need is common and is likely to be viewed as philanthropic, but in Chinese and Indian diasporas, giving to family members is more likely to be seen as an act of filial duty.

2. Government can help and government can get in the way – In the best of circumstances, governments provide the framework and incentive structures that encourage giving to social causes. But among BRICS diasporas, opinions of their respective homeland governments aren’t always so favorable. Many see the governing bodies as corrupt entities and will actively avoid giving to organizations they perceive as having a close tie to the government. Donors value transparency, accountability, and simplified giving procedures, but they don’t feel these values are being met yet.

3. NGOs & NPOs, you’re not doing you’re part – It may be unfair to say that local NGOs in the BRICS countries are not doing enough to reach global donors when they probably still struggle with mobilizing local donors, but that seems to be the case.  BRICS diasporas do not feel like they are being engaged by organizations in their homeland: Most people in these diaspora communities cannot name 5 homeland-based organizations. As such, most donors prefer to give to U.S.-based organizations. When they do give to charities at home, it’s usually at the recommendation of a personal connection rather than as a response to an NGO’s outreach effort.

4. Every single Brazilian interviewed for the report gave to a religious cause, and there was much enthusiasm for volunteering as well. – But corruption was a big factor cited for hesitancy to give, and the interviewees did not place much faith in the local NGO sector in Brazil.

5. The Russian diaspora is the most likely to give to human rights-related causes. Many Russians acknowledge that economic conditions have improved drastically in their homeland in past decades, so poverty is no longer as acute an issue in their eyes. However, overseas Russians expressed dissatisfaction with the “governmentalisation” of philanthropy and believe that the lack of tax exemptions for nonprofits is a hindrance to greater philanthropic giving (though it is not the single decisive factor in their giving).

6. The India diaspora is among the more affluent overseas communities, and their approach to philanthropy has likewise matured. Many overseas Indians take a strategic view of giving and embrace the use of donor-advised funds. However, among the younger generations, the connection to their homeland is growing looser; younger donors may place equal or greater importance on giving to their adoptive countries and other vulnerable areas as they do to India-specific causes.

7. Diaspora giving has long been a source of support to domestic Chinese communities, and Chinese diaspora philanthropy has the potential to “boom in the next 20 years.” Now that the global Chinese community is also growing more affluent, interest is shifting away from immediate relief efforts towards philanthropy that promotes sustainable growth.

8. South Africans have a deep sense of “Ubuntu” (“human kindness”), but the diaspora struggles to find a sense of community that promotes philanthropy to South Africa. The legacies of colonization and apartheid still weigh on in the community’s collective memory. As one of the interviewees for the report expressed,

For so many years we have had a divisive government and a lot of people have no accord with it. You have no nexus with the government, nothing to work towards. There is no sense of community, no working towards a greater good.

There are a lot of great additional insights not included on the list above, like thoughts on social media-powered giving and big gifts to universities, so check out the report for yourself and share your thoughts below!

One response to “8 Things You Should Know About BRICS Diaspora Philanthropy”

  1. […] people, and the number has been growing steadily since the 1970s. As seen in a recent report on BRICS diaspora philanthropy report, most members of a diaspora are indeed looking to give back to their country of origin. The […]


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