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AVINA Foundation: Study on International Grantmaking in the US

Case Overview

AVINA sought advice from FSG on a strategy to mobilize new international funds from US foundations in order to better leverage its investments in Latin America.

The Challenge

AVINA wanted to encourage new philanthropic investments in Latin America by US-based foundations. Given Latin America’s declining share of international giving, AVINA engaged FSG to develop a strategy to reverse this trend.

Approach & Solutions

FSG began by mapping the current patterns of international giving by US foundations. Next, the motivations and obstacles for greater international and Latin American funding were identified and explored through a series of funder interviews. AVINA hypothesized that new donors whose wealth came from technology would be more open to international giving. In fact, FSG discovered that most international giving came from older and larger national foundations. Although The Foundation Center had reported that international giving was increasing, FSG found that the entire increase was due to the Gates Foundation while other international contributions were declining.

FSG also discovered that all US foundations faced similar barriers in international giving:

  • Attitudes:  Lack of international awareness and an emphasis on local giving by Board members and living donors
  • Infrastructure:  No ability to build the expertise needed for effective giving in foreign countries
  • Transaction costs:  IRS regulations require substantial legal support, and monitoring overseas grantees is a challenge
  • State of overseas civil societies:  Perceived instability in the region and nascent state of Latin America’s non-profit sector
FSG suggested that AVINA consider a plan to mitigate these giving barriers by creating a US-based intermediary dedicated to raising funds for Latin America. This might enable US foundations to access AVINA’s existing network of grantees without transactional and infrastructure barriers. FSG also suggested using donor advised funds to appeal to high net worth donors, with AVINA providing the due diligence donors needed to feel secure in their grantmaking. To address attitudinal barriers, FSG recommended experience-based donor education to high net worth individuals, foundation CEOs and Board members, providing the personal experiences that might motivate them to give.


Founded in 1994, AVINA is the largest private foundation in Latin America. AVINA promotes sustainable development in Latin America by fostering relationships between leaders of the social and business sectors to promote shared agendas for action.

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