By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy
I regularly explore trends influencing philanthropy by spotlighting articles, reports, and essays in the media. I cast a wide net, venturing beyond philanthropy and traditional topics to consider a variety of ideas, innovations, debates, and critiques. Read previous posts in the series
Economists and historians compare our current age to the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, an era of enormous fortunes when the gap between poor and wealthy was magnified. In a recent essay, Benjamin Soskis from George Mason University notices another similarity: during both eras, the public placed pressure on the wealthy to donate generously. Soskis goes on to assert that public pressure should not be about how much the wealthy give, but on how effective and relevant their philanthropy is. And, he says, “Philanthro-shaming” will not damage voluntary impulses of philanthropy. “If anything, appreciating that the public really does take their philanthropic commitments seriously should inspire more giving, and giving that is more closely attuned to the nation’s needs. But philanthro-shaming should be the beginning—and not the end—of a civil and engaged conversation about philanthropic means and ends.”
Giving Circles Popular With Minorities, Women, Younger Donors
New national surveys of American households offer insight into who participates in giving circles, groups of people who pool donations and give together. Based on these surveys, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that “Americans of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent participate in giving circles at much higher rates than whites: 21 percent for blacks versus 10 percent for white non-Jewish donors, for example.” Also, “among non-Jewish whites, women make up two-thirds of all giving-circle donors.” A leader of the Connected to Give research calls on nonprofit organizations to use the findings to uncover donor trends and engage giving circle participants as potential partners and board members.
Benefit Corporations Codify and Establish Themselves as a Field
NPR takes a look at “benefit corporations”—companies that seek a profit and also offer tangible benefit to society—and the growing infrastructure that supports them. A firm called B-Lab certifies companies devoted to communities and the environment by analyzing a company’s operations, policies, and relationships with labor and suppliers. Also, 27 states have created a legal status for benefit corporations; the legal protection ensures that “a shareholder can’t sue a benefit corporation for valuing the environment as much as profit.” Though some states don’t keep track of numbers yet, at least 750 benefit corporations are known to exist, and as many as nine states are considering establishing the legal framework. As an executive at B-Lab puts it, a benefit corporation is a way “to bake your morals and your missions into the DNA of your company.”