The American Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF) is by far the most renowned and complex of all the organizations studied. It also has the greatest impact in Nicaragua.
The ANF was formed in 1992 by Nicaraguans in the United States and since its foundation it has been formally incorporated under the Florida 503 c (3) nonprofit organization designation. It was founded by the Pellas family, one of the wealthiest ones of Nicaragua, which has a history of emigration to the United States related to the revolution of 1979. The ANF is linked to that history.
Alvaro Pereira (not a Pellas), is the executive director and a Nicaraguan immigrant himself who currently resides with his nuclear family in the United States and makes frequent trips to Nicaragua in relation to his duties in the ANF.
The organization launches its funding strategies (for example, the search for potential donors and grants) mainly from its offices in Downtown Miami and Washington. It has relied on a diversified group of donors and partners who have prominently included international organizations such as United Way International, Food for the Poor and the Wallace H. Center Foundation, Nicaraguan immigrants in the United States (mainly in South Florida but not limited to that area), as well as Nicaraguan corporations such as The Pellas Group, ESTESA, and Nicaraguan Sugar Estates.
The office of the ANF in Managua (which includes office space and adjacent warehouses) is located in the periphery of the city. The staff in Managua includes seasoned as well as young engineers and other professionals and supporting staff. It is run by a team that includes Ariel López, the general manager, and Neida Pereira (not related to Alvaro Pereira), the director of projects.
The Managua team performs two main functions: it gathers and distributes humanitarian assistance (such as school materials and basic medicines) and develops projects in several areas of Nicaragua.
The project department assesses the needs of the communities (for example, water purification in communities lacking potable water, agricultural projects to benefit specific groups of rural dwellers, housing projects, etc.).
The project department or division also identifies and approaches potential partners (these can be funding institutions, local governments or different departments of the central government, such as those dealing with education or infrastructure, local universities, etc.). And it also supervises the work in the fields until completion.
The ANF’s capacity to raise funds and target several projects simultaneously has grown since the foundation of the organization: “If during its first year, in 1992, ANF distributed 2 million dollars in food, cloth, medicine and classroom materials, in 1998 we distributed $53.2 million after Hurricane Mitch which placed us amongst the main providers of assistance to the affected families. By affiliating with United Way International in 2001, we became a globally recognized charity organization. Since 2004 we have received the “4 stars” recognition by Charity Navigator because of our transparency in handling funds and our efficiency” (interview with Ariel Lopez, general manager of the Managua offices, 2009).
The ANF systematically distributes educational materials and basic medicines to hundreds of clinics and other medical facilities since their inauguration. Food assistance to schools has also been a top priority. All in all it is estimated that the organization reaches more than 300,000 low-income and poor individuals in Nicaragua yearly.
Until recently, it focused on humanitarian assistance. However, since the creation of the projects division, it has systematically included projects that can be classified as pro-development projects.
The new qualitative endeavors through projects are explained by Alvaro Pereira (interview in Nicaragua, 2010) in the following terms: “For example, as of today, we benefit up to 60,000 families every day with school lunch. Sustainable development projects involving agricultural production do not have as impressive an impact, at least in the short run. They involve higher costs and more efforts in terms of logistics and they advance at slower pace. However, once they start growing a single project may impact 200 families who receive training. Assistance in terms of sustainable development means that they will have their own farms and will become self-sufficient in the near future.”
The ANF is involved in community development and this effort includes housing projects the most sophisticated of which have schools, a community center, and even a medical facility within the community. They facilitate the training of several families in agricultural production, and indirectly in issues concerning civic involvement for community development.
The organization also works in water purification projects and the construction of rural toilets for thousands of families in rural areas. And they are increasingly targeting these kinds of projects under the sustainable development projects rationale.
During one of the fieldwork trips to Nicaragua, I visited five projects in Nicaragua in which the ANF has been involved as a major player. They include:
- A housing and community project in the municipality of Pueblo Nuevo in Estelí.
- An agricultural project sponsored by the ANF in association with the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) and other partners in Leon.
- The ANF-ICDF Agricultural Training and Production Project in Tipitapa, a housing and community project in the locality El Hular, an isolated rural area in the mountains of Matagalpa.
- A water purification project in the community La Mona in a rural area of Leon.
The ANF projects in Nicaragua tend to operate through partnerships between private and government entities.
Usually, the ANF defines which partners would be better for each project and works to attract them. In other cases, the projects had already started, but for some reason did not move forward and the ANF is incorporated at some point and starts functioning as a general coordinator and fund-raising partner that helps them move forward.
The office in Managua identifies what they call a “project radar” within each project. “The radar” is the person that they hire from the targeted community to make sure the project runs smoothly and to be in permanent contact with ANF headquarters to report any anomaly. Neighbors and future beneficiaries also get involved in advancing the project by offering their labor. The beneficiaries may be asked to make other contributions based on their possibilities.
Several factors have contributed to the ANF’s sustained involvement in transnational projects with specific impact in different areas of Nicaragua throughout the years. They can be summarized as follows:
- The characteristics of the organization’s main leaders, which include a sophisticated understanding of the sources of funding and how to approach them, as well as a sophisticated coordination of fund-raising and field efforts.
- The above-mentioned characteristic combined with a carefully crafted image, which is intertwined with its corporate ties and style, have enabled access to international donors, material and non-material resources though government-private or private-private partnerships. This has also provided access to human resources that are usually unavailable to other transnational immigrant organizations, such as highly motivated young professionals who are currently working for the organization.
Associating this kind of organization with an immigrant organization is possible because of two characteristics: first, the origins of the organization is rooted in migration as are some of its fundraising strategies to which Nicaraguan immigrants systematically contribute, and second, the executive director of the organization is a Nicaraguan immigrant in the United States where the organization has its strategic headquarters in terms of financial strategies.
However, some important characteristics of this organization to which I referred before establish a significant difference between the ANF and the other Nicaraguan immigrant organizations studied.
Thus, the ANF points to a hybrid organization that can be identified as an immigrant-nonprofit corporate organization. This kind of organization displays characteristics of both the typical transnational migrant organization and the typical transnational organization that follows a corporate nonprofit model of organization.
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