6 Ways You Can Help Guatemalan Nonprofits

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6 Ways You Can Help Guatemalan Nonprofits

Over the course of history, Guatemala and its people have endured many challenges. Most recently in 2020, two hurricanes devastated the country affecting 2.4 million people, in 2018, the Fuego volcano eruption wiped out entire villages, and today the majority of immigrants crossing the US border, still come from this small, Central American country.

In the face of these challenges and within the country’s wider context of disturbingly high malnutrition, poverty, and crime rates, you may be wondering how you can help. Well, supporting Guatemalan nonprofits is a great avenue to explore. However, before you reach for your wallet, read on to discover the 6 ways you can support Guatemalan nonprofits – your best option may be something you haven’t yet considered.

Why Guatemala?

So why does Guatemala need support? Let’s look at some statistics that paint a picture of the current situation: 

If you are from the US and these statistics don’t motivate your support, then some historical background may convince you to see why the US in particular, should share some responsibility for Guatemala’s position today and therefore contribute towards its development.

In the 1950s, the new democracy of President Arbenz angered Guatemala’s rich minority landowners, who, due to land reforms, were losing their monopoly on power. As a result, Arbenz was labelled as a Communist by the rich and The United Fruit Company (now Chiquita). Given the sensitivity at the time to Communism, the US Government financed and trained counterinsurgency campaigns which resulted in the overthrow of  Arbenz in 1954 and the beginning of Guatemala’s  36 year civil war.

During this period of unrest, over 200,000 people were killed, 40,000 ‘disappeared’, and 1.5 million were displaced. The majority of affected communities were indigenous and the war is widely considered a genocide. Despite the bloodshed ending in 1996, Guatemala’s political system was left largely unchanged and continues to be highly corrupt, racist, and inefficient to this day. 

So what does Guatemala’s civil war have to do with the US? In a nutshell, as Guatemalan journalist Irma Alicia Velasquez Nimatuj writes, “by financing and training counterinsurgency forces that slaughtered indigenous people, the United States shares blame for the genocide.”  Guatemalan Anthropologist and Journalist Velasquez Nimatuj also states,The long-term effects of the massacres are not only visible in the loss of lives and brilliant minds but on the current fragmentations of Guatemalan society. U.S. foreign policy tore apart the social fabric of the country.” US Foreign Policy in the 1950s is a key reason why Guatemala continues to suffer from a broken political system and is severely underdeveloped. The country’s civil war spanning almost 4 decades was largely thanks to US interference. Ongoing symptoms of this dark past include Guatemalans seeking better opportunities through unprecedented migration flows, widespread gang violence throughout the country, and the region’s prolific drug trade.

Why Support Guatemalan Nonprofits

Despite this seemingly gloomy outlook and the fact that the average individual cannot single handedly support Guatemala on wider issues such as national rates of literacy, poverty and human rights, there are ways you can make a difference. How? By supporting nonprofit organizations in Guatemala.

Local nonprofits have an ear to the ground and are intimately connected to where they operate. They invariably know exactly what is needed and where to send help, meaning they are powerful mechanisms for effectively allocating resources and driving change in the country.

Johana Lopez for partner nonprofit SERES guiding children to the forest to provide a module on environmental education.
Johana Lopez for partner nonprofit SERES guiding children to the forest to provide a module on environmental education.

These nonprofits are invariably proficient at responding quickly to local needs, but lack the resources to expand their impact. They typically don’t have resources for raising awareness and funds from outside sources as they are instead, busy serving their communities. Until Pionero Philanthropy created its interactive map and database of the nonprofit environment in Guatemala, there was little public or online information about what nonprofits existed in the country. This lack of accessible information, made it more challenging for donors to find the types of nonprofits they were seeking. This translated into missed funding opportunities for nonprofits, and unfulfilled positive outcomes in the wider community.

An additional challenge for Guatemalan nonprofits is the endemic corruption found in local and national institutions. Oftentimes, funding is allocated to projects that benefit politicians’ or elites’ private interests whilst nonprofits receive little assistance for their communities. In a recent example, Congress tried to cut major funding for nonprofit malnutrition programs in addition to allocating a paltry amount for the reconstruction of areas destroyed after Hurricane Eta and Iota. To make matters worse, there are many cases of Guatemalan nonprofits being used by politicians for tax evasion and other more nefarious purposes, exemplified in 2020 by the NOHE case, a nonprofit linked to child pornography rings and fraudulent funding.

A large amount of funding for Guatemalan nonprofits comes from USAID, however the Trump administration drastically cut funding to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in 2019 which left many organizations with major gaps in their budgets with some even having to close down. 

How Can You Help?

#1 – Tourism 

73.5% of Guatemalans informally work in tourism with  the sector contributing 8.8% to the country’s GDP. These figures are unsurprising given the country’s countless areas of outstanding natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.

A number of companies support local causes and some nonprofits have their own social businesses, many of which are tourism related. This means that not only can you enjoy the best tourist hotspots, but you can also give back to the local community at the same time.

For example, Pionero Philanthropy partner nonprofit Casa Guatemala operates Hotel Backpackers in Rio Dulce with  proceeds from stays going towards the support, education and housing of hundreds of children from low income families on the Caribbean side of the country. Other nonprofits have social businesses that employ locals to make beautiful handmade goods like jewelry, clothing, and more, with all profits going back to the nonprofit and the communities that produce the goods. Our nonprofit partners who have handicraft social businesses include Sharing the Dream, Multicolores, Cojolya, Creamos Futuros, and Maya Traditions.

Casa Guatemala's Hotel Backpackers in Rio Dulce
Partner Casa Guatemala operates Hotel Backpackers in Rio Dulce for an additional revenue stream for their nonprofit.

Finally, there are a number of nonprofits that provide tours which serve as both awareness raising efforts and provide an additional income stream for the organization. Outstanding partner nonprofits that offer tours include De La Gente that provides hands-on coffee tours showcasing their work in their community, and Ak’tenamit that facilitates many eco-tourism and cultural opportunities in the Rio Dulce area and beyond.

#2 – Volunteer In Guatemala

If you prefer to get closer to the action whilst contributing your time, skills and energy, then in-person volunteering is a great way to support Guatemalan nonprofits. Volunteering not only physically makes a difference, but the awareness volunteers raise in their personal networks can also benefit the organization’s profile and fundraising. Further benefits are also reaped by the local economy and community where you volunteer through the “voluntourism” effect of booking tours, homestays, Spanish classes and more.

There is such a variety of nonprofits in Guatemala (you can find over 8,000 on our interactive map) working across diverse theme areas, and there are sure to be organizations seeking your time and skills, whether you are a seasoned professional or a student.

Volunteers working on construction project with Pionero Philanthropy partner nonprofit Guatemala Housing Alliance
Pionero Philanthropy partner nonprofit Guatemala Housing Alliance welcomes volunteer groups to assist them with construction projects.

Stellar examples of Pionero Philanthropy partner nonprofits seeking volunteers include:

  • Guatemala Housing Alliance with whom you can volunteer your muscle to build a house and a bond with a local family. 
  • For those passionate about wildlife conservation, ARCAS does sterling work protecting many species including turtles, jaguars and many other endangered animals in Guatemala. 
  • And if you love kids and value the importance of education, Integral Heart Family, Education for the Children, and Caras Alegres are a few of Pionero Philanthropy’s partner nonprofits that welcome hands-on help from volunteers.

#3 – Volunteer With Guatemalan Organizations From Abroad

With the COVID-19 pandemic enforcing greater remote working worldwide, individuals and organizations are now more comfortable than ever with volunteering from afar. Although it is impossible to do some tasks remotely, with a little creative thinking, it is now possible to undertake a surprising amount of tasks from outside Guatemala to support the outstanding organizations making a difference in the country.

Pionero Philanthropy remote volunteer Adelina
Thanks to remote volunteers such as Adelina, Pionero Philanthropy now boasts the most comprehensive database on the nonprofit environment.

Pionero Philanthropy couldn’t have created and organized all the data for the interactive map of Guatemalan nonprofits without the help of more than a dozen remote volunteers in 2020! If you are interested in supporting Pionero Philanthropy and learning more about our remote volunteer opportunities available, see how you can get involved!

#4 – Host A Fundraiser or Event 

Another effective and valuable way to support Guatemalan nonprofits is to host a fundraising event in your hometown! Fundraisers organized abroad are, for many nonprofits, some of their biggest income earners, helping enormously towards their financial stability. Furthermore, as foreign currencies of more developed countries are stronger than the Guatemalan Quetzal, every dollar, euro or pound raised goes a long way in Guatemala. One example of a successful fundraising event of a partner nonprofit includes Mercado Global, whose Fashion Forward Virtual Gala event in 2020 raised over $200,000!

Not only do events outside of Guatemala help the nonprofit on a monetary level, but they provide important  publicity opportunities. When time is taken with event attendees to thoroughly explain the importance of the nonprofit’s work, repeat donors and longer term relationships are more likely to result than with  traditional canvassing for donations.

#5 – Raise Awareness of Guatemalan Nonprofits & Their Work

Raising awareness of Guatemalan nonprofits and the important work they are doing isn’t only achieved through organizing a fundraising event. Social media, blogs, videos, and traditional media channels are also very effective ways to promote and show your support for an organization from wherever you live. 

These activities can provide additional reach for Guatemalan nonprofits, connecting them to your family, friends,and local community. Many small nonprofits in Guatemala typically don’t have the time, resources or connections to perform this type of outreach. 

By writing a blog article, speaking at an event, sharing a social media post or having an article in the local paper, you can create interest in the issue and the nonprofit trying to resolve it. This could result in additional financial or volunteer support  for the nonprofit.

#6 – Donate To An Outstanding Guatemalan Nonprofit

The last helpful way to support Guatemalan nonprofit organizations, is with good old fashioned donations. 

It is important to distinguish between in-kind and monetary donations, and for donors to evaluate how effectively each can support a nonprofit, before donating .As mentioned, a dollar or a euro goes a lot further in Guatemala and is often the much smarter and more effective choice than in-kind donations. For example, for the same cost of buying and sending school supplies from the US, you could donate the money to the nonprofit who could buy twenty times more school supplies, whilst also stimulating the local economy. Furthermore, many nonprofits have donors who match donations, sometimes up to five times, so a monetary donation could be worth much more to the nonprofit than the amount you donate. 

One partner nonprofit that always impresses us at Pionero Philanthropy with their online fundraising efforts is Integral Heart Family, an outstanding education nonprofit based in Antigua. For example, in their 2021 Valentines Campaign, they raised $10,000 and achieved an additional $5,000 from their bigger donors when they reached their goal by February 14th. 

children at Guatemalan NGO Integral Heart Family
Pionero Philanthropy partner Integral Heart Family does outstanding online fundraising efforts.

In-kind donations can also be a very effective way of helping nonprofits in Guatemala. Although the donor needs to consider the impact of an in kind donation versus the monetary equivalent, donating items that are difficult to find or more expensive in Guatemala, can be a better option for some nonprofits. For example, our animal welfare partner nonprofit Ayuda Para La Salud de Perros y Gatos always asks volunteers and visitors to Guatemala to bring various items like flea treatments and medications that are cheaper to buy abroad and easily fit in your luggage.

Guatemala NPO Ayuda Para La Salud de Perros y Gatos
In-kind donations make a real difference to many nonprofits like our partner Ayuda Para La Salud de Perros y Gatos.

How Pionero Philanthropy Can Help

Pionero Philanthropy was created to bridge the gap between grassroots Guatemalan nonprofits, donors, and information seekers in order to facilitate long-lasting and positive change and we hope the information in this article will steer you in the right direction. 

Our interactive map and nonprofit database provide accurate and up-to-date information on the nonprofit and philanthropic sector in Guatemala and our partner nonprofits. We believe that anyone can be a philanthropist by supporting Guatemalan nonprofits, whether you are donating, time, money, materials or attention.

If you would like personalized support on your Philanthropy journey, please reach out to us for a consultation. We pride ourselves on selecting outstanding nonprofit partners that meet our 5 Pillar Criteria so you can support organizations with the full confidence that your contribution will make a difference where it is needed.

If you would like to support Pionero Philanthropy (also a US registered nonprofit) in furthering our mission, please contact us or or discover how you can get involved with our organization.