New trends in giving

At New York University’s Centre for Philanthropy and Fundraising (where I’ll be doing a summer intensive in July) I attended a “Lunchtime Conversation” on the topic New Trends in Giving. The speaker was Marcia Stepanek, the founding editor of a new philanthropic magazine called Contribute. The fact that the magazine’s subject is philanthropic activity by people based in New York gives you some notion of the sheer scale of philanthropic endeavour here.

I’m not going to give away here all the interesting thoughts she divulged – otherwise what will I have to share when I come home? – suffice to say that Stepanek contends the “concentration of extreme wealth in young people”, coupled with the globalised and digitised world, are converging into a new philanthropic moment.

It seems there is a real shunning of major charity fundraising nights as part of a sustained move to what she described as “performance philanthropy”, in which the mega-wealthy see no problem in bypassing what they perceive as the “non-profit system” in order to achieve “quick hits”.

Hmm, rich Americans throwing money at entrenched systemic problems for the glory of quick wins, with no view to long-term outcomes and sustainable development. Don’t I see another version of that on the news every night, from Iraq?

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