people benefiting directly
Colombia faces the complex task of building peace after more than 50 years of conflict. Other ongoing challenges include drug production and trafficking, the assassination of civil society leaders, and threats from armed groups. We invest in building an inclusive and sustainable peace at the community level. Our grantees promote peaceful communities, supported by strong civil society organizations and ample legal economic opportunities. Currently, they work in 24 of Colombia’s 32 departments.
We awarded our first grant in Colombia in 1972. Since then, we have provided $57 million through 392 grants to local organizations.
Staff working with projects in Colombia
Recent News and Stories
The Inter-American Foundation’s board of directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Simone Gourguechon, global sustainability strategy manager for McDonald’s Corporation, to its advisory council.
By sustainably harvesting forests, Mexican community organizations are stemming deforestation and ensuring opportunities for all people to thrive in their home communities.
Frequently asked questions
We are governed by a bipartisan board of directors appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Members are drawn from both the private sector and federal government. The board appoints a president who serves as our chief executive officer.
- The U.S. Congress annually appropriates funds directly to the IAF. This represents our largest funding source.
- We also receive interagency transfers to address U.S. strategic priorities using our unique, bottom-up development model.
- We diversify our funding sources through strategic partnerships with the corporate and philanthropic sectors.
- Our grantee partners mobilize local resources for every grant we fund. Typically, the amount of resources that they commit exceeds the U.S. taxpayer dollars we invest. By requiring a counterpart contribution, we maximize sustainability and ensure communities take ownership for solving local development challenges.
- We accept private, tax-deductible donations to advance community-led development in Latin America and the Caribbean. You can donate to us directly.
A bipartisan group of visionaries in the U.S. Congress founded the IAF over 50 years ago to address their concern that the U.S. Government needed to do better at directing its foreign development aid to the most vulnerable and underserved people in the Americas. They wanted an agency aligned with U.S. foreign policy priorities and complementary to existing channels of U.S. foreign assistance.
We’ve honed a model of development that differentiates us in the following ways:
- Who we work with. We reach grassroots and civil society organizations that work at the community level and often are just starting out. We target funding to underserved areas and populations.
- Who drives the process. We put local people at the center, catalyzing their own solutions. We believe that development progress will be best sustained when local organizations own the ideas and put them into action.
- How we fund. We provide small amounts of funding directly to local organizations, rather than through international contractors or foreign governments.
- How we adapt. We can rapidly turn on or off, pivot, or accelerate grant flows as conditions change on the ground, which is rare in traditional foreign assistance models.
- How we save money to maximize funds available for grants. We keep costs down by maintaining a lean operation of fewer than 50 staff with no offices overseas. We also share core administrative services with other agencies. This results in a very low rate to operate the foundation—only 8%.
- How we hold our grantee partners accountable for sustainable results. We engage intensively with our grantee partners, build trust-based relationships, and connect them to peer-to-peer learning opportunities and partnership across sectors. We require them to report their progress on project goals every six months and audit their finances regularly. We continuously challenge them towards sustainability and self-reliance.
Our bipartisan, public-private governing structure ensures we benefit from private sector experience and work toward the long-term U.S. national interest. Our work with grantees promotes:
- economic empowerment
- peace and security
- inclusion in local democratic governance
- community resilience to environmental, economic, social, and political shocks.
We use the term “grassroots development” for the process of underserved people organizing themselves locally to improve the wellbeing of their families, communities, and societies. What they design is often holistic, addressing multiple social, cultural, and economic needs. We believe a people-oriented approach is key to promoting both prosperous economies and equitable, democratic societies. To put people first, we stress community participation and networking, and we invest in making organizations stronger and more representative of the communities they serve.
- Invest in people and their organizations
- Channel funds directly to civil society
- Promote entrepreneurship, innovation, inclusion, and self-reliance
- Strengthen democratic practices
- Empower vulnerable people to solve challenges they face
- Treat partners with respect and empathy
We have been a leader in recognizing grassroots initiatives as a critical factor in the sustainable development of Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 1972, we have supported more than 5,400 organizations in 32 countries. Over time, we have consistently invested in food production and agriculture, enterprise development, education and training, civic engagement, and social and economic inclusion.
Together with our grantees, we have tested cost-effective, participatory models for social and economic development. These models have resulted in self-sustaining enterprises and have been replicated and expanded by government and larger donor agencies, improving conditions for hundreds of thousands of underserved families throughout the hemisphere.
- Our model of funding local community-driven initiatives, rather than individuals or international organizations, has come to be recognized as a development best practice.
- We have provided sustained funding and technical support to grassroots organizations in ways that, according to our grantees, other organizations do not. About 30 percent of our new grantees have never received support from either the U.S. government or from an international donor.
- Our knowledge-sharing exchanges among grantees have created an enabling environment for disseminating field-based innovations.
- By supporting local philanthropic sectors, we have fostered conditions necessary to reduce Latin American and Caribbean organizations’ dependency on U.S. foreign aid, responding to our original mandate and common critiques of foreign assistance.
Grassroots development works. It not only engages people in improving their own conditions but also fosters responsible citizenship. To gauge the impact of our investment, we systematically track our projects’ results using indicators designed to measure their tangible results and the civic capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities.
During our 50-year history, we have achieved many concrete milestones, including:
- We funded the first microcredit program in South America almost a decade before the establishment of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which popularized the idea of microfinance for community development.
- We have invested in associations of farmers, artisans and other producers to refine their products, scale up, market effectively, and export. For example, El Ceibo, a federation of subsistence farmers of Bolivia’s Amazon Basin, became the first organization in the world to export organic cacao and chocolate to high-end international markets. Today, it is one of Bolivia’s top chocolate exporters.
- We created a membership organization of Latin American corporate foundations, RedEAmérica. Moving beyond charity handouts, it became a regional leader in channeling private sector investment into community-driven development projects. Today it is an independent entity with 80 members in 13 countries.
- As one of the first international funders to fund African descendant organizations in the 1970s, we took a leading role in encouraging their work to promote the rights, recognition, and inclusion of people of African descent. Our grantees advocated for the inclusion of African descendants in the censuses of various countries including Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. With IAF support, a Honduran grantee secured a United Nations resolution proclaiming 2015-2024 the global Decade of People of African Descent.
- We partnered with U.S.-based diaspora organizations beginning in 2001 to leverage funds for development in their countries of origin, well before the international development field moved in that direction.
Yes. Here’s how:
- We know how to select our partners. We support grassroots groups with a track record in participatory self-help activities, who are willing to invest their own resources. We vet all of our partners through the U.S. embassy in-country before we commit to funding.
- We respond to local initiatives. We do not impose top-down projects; instead, we build upon the ideas and commitment of local people.
- We encourage financially sustainable processes, either with revenue generated by grantees or with resources leveraged from private and public sectors.
We support innovative approaches that are replicable and adaptable in other settings. Other communities learn these methods and multiply the impact of project activities.