Johnson Center conducts research into Mexico’s community and family philanthropy


Shafi Musaddique


Two chairs of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy have kickstarted a project exploring the intersections of community and family philanthropy in Mexico, in a bid to improve what they call the “relatively sparse” field of research in Latin American philanthropy. 

Dr Michael Layton, WK Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair, and Dr Michael Moody, Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy, both hope to build a better understanding about collaborative and place-based giving in Mexico. 

They are both exploring how Mexican families and donors think about and practice place-based and community-focused giving, particularly through institutions such as community foundations. 

The pair spent 10 days in Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico, in mid-May, interviewing some of the region’s leading philanthropic families. 

“More than once during our research trip, people involved in Mexican philanthropy told us they thought the field was still in its ‘infancia’ — its infancy stage — especially when compared to the US,” Michael Moody said in an interview with Johnson Center.  

“And while this is true in terms of the formal institutions that are so widespread in the US, such as foundations and philanthropy support or membership organisations, it doesn’t acknowledge the extremely long history of giving and generosity in Mexico, especially through and to the Catholic Church,” he said, adding that a “collective self-perception of Mexican philanthropy as underdeveloped is certainly something we will be exploring as the research continues”. 

Local philanthropy’s commitment to community in Mexico was particularly illuminating for Michael Layton.  

“They talked about their love of Puebla and how they gave [of] their Five Ts — treasure, time, talent, testimony, and ties. It struck me how many stories there were of how they recruited new board members and donors for the community foundation among their family and friends,” Layton said.  

Both Layton and Moody will continue to conduct research this summer at the industrial heart of Mexico, researching philanthropic families in the city of Monterrey and nearby areas of Nueva Leon. A second trip planned in autumn, culminating in October.  

The Johnson Center said it hopes to conduct similar studies across other Latin American countries in future.  

Research into Mexican philanthropy is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in the US.

The WK Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair was established at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University in Michigan in 2015. Layton is the second person to hold the chair after Jason Franklin, known for work researching the landscape of collective giving circles in the United States and abroad and as a cofounder of progressive donor collaborative, Solidaire.

Shafi Musaddique is news editor at Alliance magazine

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