The Central America Donors Forum (CADF) is the premier space for civil society, philanthropy, government and business to discuss priority issues in Central America, expand networks and advance development, equity and justice in the region.
Since 2010, Seattle International Foundation (SIF) has hosted CADF annually in cities across Central America. Over three days, CADF offers a variety of panels, workshops and networking opportunities to address challenges in the region, create a shared vision and promote collaboration across sectors.
Each year, CADF brings together hundreds of leaders and experts from more than 20 countries, and receives support from dozens of organizations committed to developing Central America.
Executive DirectorRead letter
This year, featuring the unique political and social backdrop of Costa Rica, CADF 2023 will drive regional conversations forward on migration, environment, authoritarianism, closing civic spaces and much more. Read a letter by Adriana Beltrán, SIF’s Executive Director, to the CADF 2023 audience.
Renewing a Vision of Hope
For the first time, the Central America Donors Forum (CADF) is headed to Costa Rica. CADF 2023 will bring together hundreds of cross-sector leaders in beautiful San José to chart a renewed vision of peace and justice in Central America.
Through a dynamic, engaging and participatory agenda, CADF 2023 will seek shared solutions to priority issues facing Central America. Attendees will engage in dialogue centered on environmental protection and climate justice; discuss and address issues of prosperity and migration; seek pathways for equity by fostering expansive, inclusive and thriving communities; and explore philanthropic models that propel community-driven solutions.
Join our unique community of experts and changemakers on September 25-27 and take part in constructing a collaborative vision of hope in Central America.
Environment & Sustainable Solutions
Climate change poses a harrowing threat to Central America, a region highly exposed and vulnerable to irreversible environmental degradation. Devastating droughts, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification have contributed dramatically to human and environmental insecurity, as well as to migration, food insecurity, and poor access to health and education. Despite contributing only a fraction of global carbon emissions, Central American countries shoulder a disproportionate environmental burden, ultimately exacerbating high levels of poverty, inequality and instability. Following Hurricanes Eta and Iota, the 2022 IPCC report claimed climate crisis is expected to deepen in the region.
Amid environmental degradation and resource extraction, dialogues on climate justice have increased pressure to reconcile environmental sustainability and social equality with economic growth and public policy. In a country widely recognized as a global leader in environmental conservation and protection, hear directly from the experts documenting and the defenders protecting our environment and human rights.
More Equitable & Just Communities
Despite considerable economic investment and aid, inequity remains a pervasive and multidimensional issue in Central America. Unequal economic opportunity and access to justice, as well as racial and gender disparities are deeply entrenched and profoundly undermine the region’s future, and democratic backsliding and closing civic spaces are worsening the situation. Racial and indigenous minorities, youth, women and LGBTQ populations—to name a few—suffer as a consequence and social progress is stunted. These underlying challenges were exacerbated by the global pandemic.
In confronting these challenges, civil society throughout the region has risen up to demand greater equity and accountability in notable ways. Independent journalists risk their lives to hold governments accountable and provide the public with quality news and information. Social movements, often led by youth, fight for visibility and justice. Social-minded enterprises are contributing to a new social fabric that reduces inequalities and boosts economic growth. As a result of these promising cross-sector efforts, Central America is building towards more equitable, just and peaceful societies.
Migration & Pathways to Prosperity
Soaring numbers of migrants have fled northern Central America in recent years. Since 2018, over 600,000 Nicaraguans have left their homes, primarily emigrating to neighboring Costa Rica, where the influx has overwhelmed the asylum system and prompted new restrictions. Long-term structural challenges, natural disasters, ineffective or inadequate public and private investment, and systemic corruption have all contributed to under-performing economies, lack of opportunities, and a growing hopelessness that incentivizes irregular migration.
In one of Latin America’s major migration hubs, the CADF audience will examine factors contributing to the region’s economic wellbeing and prospects for improving opportunities and prosperity for all. The private sector, civil society, governments and donors must unite to foster prosperity, greater equality and strategies to address the most pressing structural challenges in the region, including the expanding migration crisis.
The multifaceted and intersecting issues confronting Central America have demonstrated the necessity for agile, effective, and well-funded organizations capable of responding to shifting challenges. Driven to address the root causes of structural problems, a growing number of organizations are joining together to embrace the transformational power of partnerships. By embracing this sentiment, funders supporting Central America are revitalizing philanthropic models anchored in trust and community-driven solutions.
Built upon a shared vision for Central America, a sustainable and equitable development agenda requires innovative partnerships between civil society, government, the private sector and donors. Achieving social progress is best accomplished through collaboration rather than competition, and alignment rather than alienation. Now is the moment to consider how partnerships and multi-stakeholder approaches can tackle complex issues. As a community, CADF will encourage authentic relationships based on mutual trust, transparency and dialogue and, ultimately, address a history rooted in racism, patriarchy and oppression with practical solutions.
Convened over 5,000 leaders
Since our first convening in 2010, the Forum has brought together over 5,000 leaders from civil society, philanthropy, business and government. CADF has been held in 8 cities across Central America and the United States.
Mobilized funding and resources to Central America
CADF provides the information, resources and peer-learning network needed to make a difference in philanthropic and civil society efforts. In the past three years, CADF directly contributed $74,000 to nine exemplary Central America-based civil society organizations.
Catalyzed co-investment of projects and initiatives
CADF has transformed into a catalyst for collaboration among funders. A panel on independent journalism led to the creation in 2016 of the Independent Journalism Fund, an effort among donors that supports Central American independent media organizations.
Developed common agendas across sectors
Each year, CADF’s agenda focuses on the most pressing issues facing Central America to seek out potential cross-sector solutions for the region’s greatest challenges. New partnerships are shining examples of the potential impact of civil society in Central America.
Affected narratives established by the status quo
Over the years, CADF has been covered by dozens of journalism outlets. This coverage shifts narratives of power and encourages organizations in the region to enact social change. Local, regional and international media outlets covered CADF 2022 in nearly 150 print articles, television segments and radio spots.
Ongoing decolonization and democratization of philanthropy
CADF is an exercise in decolonizing and democratizing practices in the philanthropic sector. As a result, our community formed the CADF Donor Roundtable, an active network of philanthropic leaders committed to drive development efforts through partnerships, knowledge sharing and collective action.
- Spark conversations that influence philanthropy
Through a thoughtfully organized agenda featuring four unique tracks, participants will have multiple opportunities to share, listen and learn about philanthropic efforts in Central America.
- Build an inclusive, peer-learning network
At countless informal networking spaces, attendees will establish mutually beneficial relationships with organizations that help advance their work in the region.
- Inform and enhance the strategic giving and investing of funders
Attendees will learn about sustainable and results-oriented impact initiatives that encourage complementary funding models for new and existing donors.
- Exchange information, knowledge, tools and resources
Sessions will highlight partnerships, allow for audience engagement, provide reliable data, incorporate useful tools and frameworks, and feature partner perspectives.
- Elevate the voices of underrepresented groups and experts
The Forum will highlight diverse voices across all sectors to share expertise and key lessons learned in the region.
CADF is a place to have honest and tough conversations about development in Central America.
Join us for CADF 2023
Reserve your space on September 25-27 in San José, Costa Rica for the 13th annual Central America Donors Forum.Attend CADF 2023
CADF 2023 Timeline
CADF 2023 announced
Sponsorship opportunities available
Theme and tracks announced
Request for session proposals begins
Host Committee announced
Request for session proposals closes
CADF 2023 held in San José, Costa Rica
CADF 2022 Wrap-up Report
Check out highlights from our most recent CADF in Honduras! Explore session summaries, quotes, photos, recordings, and more.View CADF 2022 Wrap-up Report
Seattle International Foundation’s (SIF) Central America Donors Forum (CADF) began in 2010 as a small meeting of donors in the Pacific Northwest of the United States supporting the region, and connected them with Central American members of business, government, academic and civil society. The event’s initial goal was to exchange information about the region and explore possibilities for collaboration and co-investment.
As CADF traveled to new cities throughout Central America, the event brought together a greater number of leaders across sectors and began receiving support from other organizations committed to the region, eventually expanding both its presence and impact to become one of the most prominent development conferences in Central America.
With 12 years of history and having united over 3,500 leaders, CADF has transformed into the premier space to discuss priority issues in Central America, create alliances and expand networks, and facilitate innovative solutions that promote development and create opportunities in the region.
The founding event of CADF was a modest conference called “Collaboration & Poverty Alleviation in Central America” and organized by Seattle International Foundation (SIF) at the PATH headquarters in Seattle, Washington. On April 8, 2010, the conference brought together 66 representatives from foundations and NGOs interested in Central America development. After a successful experience sharing information and building networks, a primary conclusion of the event was to hold an annual conference on Central America dedicated to priority issues in the region—the next CADF would subsequently be held in 2012.
The 2012 Central America Donors Forum took place at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington on June 9. The event brought together 117 donors and development experts from both the United States and Central America. The event featured a series of panels on the prevention of gender-based violence, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and opportunities for collaboration and investment in Central America for youth development and public safety.
The third iteration of CADF was held at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, D.C. on October 25. Throughout the day, 124 participants joined discussions on economic empowerment of women, gender-based violence, investment in young women and opportunities for collaboration with the private sector, as well as a roundtable for donors.
CADF 2014 took place on December 2-3 in Mexico City, Mexico—the first Forum held outside of the United States. The 1.5-day agenda revolved around the Alliance for Prosperity Plan in the Northern Triangle of Central America, the role of philanthropy and civil society in the region, inclusive business models, public safety and sexual health and reproductive rights. In total, 101 participants joined the Forum, where SIF announced its newest program: the Central America and Mexico Youth (CAMY) Fund.
CADF 2015 was held in San Salvador, El Salvador on November 18-19. As the first Forum held in a Central American city, and in addition to nearly tripling the previous year’s attendance (266 participants joined), the event offered an agenda spanning two full days with the support of a dozen sponsoring organizations. The Forum addressed topics such as U.S. and international co-investment, philanthropy and immigration policy, corruption and transparency, education and youth, human rights, public security, child marriage and adolescent pregnancy. One of the primary results following the Forum was the creation of SIF’s Independent Journalism Fund.
Beginning in 2016, CADF added both a third day to the agenda and incorporated simultaneous sessions, which tripled discussion spaces. CADF 2016 was held in Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala on November 28-30, featuring nearly 30 panels, workshops, network spaces and site visits for its 272 attendees. Sessions focused on education, migration, climate change, journalism, the role of the private sector and philanthropy in regional development, security, women and adolescent girls.
From October 25-27, Panama City, Panama served as the venue for the 7th annual CADF. The year’s theme, “Reimagining Alliances”, led to conversations about and proposals for gender equality, education, environment, philanthropy, youth and corporate social responsibility. The program featured 85 speakers and over 40 unique sessions and activities for 297 participants.
By 2018, CADF had positioned itself as a unique regional convening to form partnerships and expand networks. CADF 2018 united nearly 400 leaders in the city of San Salvador, El Salvador from October 22-24. Under the theme, “Creating Space for Everyone”, sessions delved into a wide array of topics like corruption and impunity, migration, independent journalism, femicide, access to reproductive health, and impact investment.
The first CADF in Honduras was held on October 23-25 in Tegucigalpa and included three full days of sessions, with additional days of site visits and social activities. The central theme, “Progress at a Crossroads”, responded to a moment in Central America where three topics of development remained crucial: democracy, migration and social movements. These topics were featured in all sessions, and were complemented by presentations with artists and leaders from the region. Over 400 attendees participated in CADF 2019.
For the first time in 10 years, CADF took entirely to the virtual stage. While the Covid-19 pandemic caused the event to transition online, it allowed the CADF platform to connect with a broader audience that ultimately enriched conversations about an evolving new reality. The event included 700 attendees from across 20 countries. The CADF 2020 theme, “Reinvention & Resistance in Times of Crisis”, set the tone for over 30 interactive sessions on September 1-3. This event included the launch of the CADF Awards, a recognition of six civil society organizations for their reinvention and resistance efforts in the midst of crisis.
The 11th annual CADF remained as a virtual event for the second year in a row. Following a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the destruction of two hurricanes and increased authoritarianism in the region, the fight against corruption by civil society, youth movements and independent media faced unprecedented challenges. CADF 2021, under the theme, “Alliances to Heal and Rebuild”, gave voice to 152 speakers on October 26-28. For the second time, the CADF Awards recognized and funded six civil society organizations that contributed to social healing and reconstruction in the region.
CADF 2022 was held in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on October 26-28, 2022. The first in-person CADF since the pandemic began brought together 490 attendees and featured 52 unique sessions, the most in the event ‘s history.
CADF 2022 gathered hundreds of leaders to engage in dialogue centered on emerging trends in philanthropy, discuss and address closing civic space across Central America, seek out collaborative efforts to foster economic empowerment, explore innovative approaches to reduce structural inequalities in society, and hear the stories of defenders protecting the sustainability of our environment and human rights.
The CADF 2022 audience arrived from 18 countries and included over 150 speakers, panelists, moderators and facilitators, as well as featured 25 sponsors. One third of sessions were streamed for free via social media.
Meet the team
Events and Program Officer
Eric L. Olson
Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives
Director of Development and Fundraising