Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
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.
The size of our grants depends on the needs of the organization proposing it and the amount of counterpart resources it mobilizes.
Our average grant is $280,000 and lasts four years. Recent grants have varied from $50,000 to $400,000 over one to four years. Currently, we do not fund requests for amounts under $25,000 or for more than $400,000.
We will confirm receipt of your proposal as soon as we receive it. Within six to nine months, we will notify you of the status of the proposal. If you have not heard from us, we have not yet decided about funding.
Before deciding about funding, our representatives will visit the submitting organization and the community(ies), meet residents, and start a dialogue about the proposed activities. Typically, organizations adjust their original proposals during this process. If you would like to check on the status of your proposal, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the date you sent it to us, your organization’s name and acronym, and your country.
We accept applications on a rolling basis. There is no deadline.
Yes, your organization can submit as many proposals as it wants. However, we rarely fund more than one project at a time by the same organization.
By “governing structure,” we mean your organization’s form of leadership. You might have, for example, a board of directors, general assembly, fiscal council, and/or chief executive officer.
By “operating structure,” we mean how your organization divides up labor. For example, your operating structure might include an educational team, a communications team, and an administrative department.
By “composition,” we are referring to the people who form the organization. An association is made of members, for example, and may also include volunteers and other interested individuals.
In general, we do not fund proposals that request more than 50 percent in overhead expenses. Usually the lower the overhead, the more competitive the proposal.
Yes, salaries qualify as an expense.
We require that counterpart funding be part of your project’s budget, but do not ask for a minimum amount. However, proposals with higher counterpart funding are more competitive.
Remember, you can include cash or in-kind donations as counterpart, including land, supplies, infrastructure, labor, and office, storage, and meeting space.
We allow the following administrative expenses:
- office equipment and supplies
- other costs (guidelines listed on the proposed budget form in the “Budget” section).
Eligibility for Grants
We are currently unable to fund organizations located in Venezuela or Cuba. Because Puerto Rico is part of the United States, we also cannot fund projects there.
Yes, your field office may submit the proposal. If the main office contributes funds, they may be included as counterpart resources for the grant.
A local private university may technically apply for funding if its project fulfills all of our published eligibility criteria, including community leadership and social impact. A public university cannot apply for funding from us directly, but may partner with an organization that is eligible.
However, before your university takes the time to apply, keep in mind that we rarely fund projects submitted by universities. It often takes us longer than a school year to review proposals and release the funds, so student groups seeking funds for their projects will not receive them in time.
While we encourage our grantees to collaborate with local and municipal government entities, we do not directly fund government projects.
Private giving is essential to strengthen our investments in grassroots development and help communities thrive in Latin America and the Caribbean through sustainable programming. As an independent agency of the U.S. government, we receive an annual allocation of funds through the federal appropriations process, which constitutes the majority of our operating and programmatic budget. However, we regularly receive more high-quality, viable proposals for projects than we can fund via agency appropriations. Private support from donors like you makes our limited federal funding go further, by allowing us to support more of the region’s best ideas and promote a sustainable funding model throughout the hemisphere.
Yes. The IAF is an independent agency of the United States government, and your donation qualifies as a charitable contribution under IRS Code sections 170(a) and 170(c).
We appreciate your interest in supporting our projects. The IAF carefully conducts a priorities and needs assessment of the region. While it is possible to have your gift directed toward a specific initiative or country where we work, we prefer that you make your contribution unrestricted to the IAF. Doing so ensures agency resources are more quickly and effectively available to meet the region’s greatest needs. If you have any concerns, please send an email to email@example.com.
The Inter-American Foundation is committed to respecting the privacy of donors. We will not sell, share, or trade your name or personal information with any other entity, nor send you mailings on behalf of other organizations.
This policy applies to all information received by the Inter-American Foundation, both online and offline, as well as any electronic, written, or oral communications.
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