11 Oct 2022


The Top 10 Philanthropists of 2020

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In the article by Dowie, Mark. 2001 on “American Foundations: An Investigative History,” an outline of issues to deal with philanthropy and the fundamental ways in which it is held by the American society and its institutions manifest. The author compares the philanthropic extent and measures that foundations in both community and private arena have undertaken from years back to the current state. He notes that the influence of these charitable organizational and foundations continues being greater and covering far wider areas than the public recognizes. Philanthropic organizations operated without public oversight, being highly privatized and shielded by their founders and fiduciaries allotted to administer them. The lack of public oversight continuously decreased within the previous forty years leading to gaining a significant level of accountability to the public. However, a threat presents where these philanthropic organizations stand a risk of government regulations. This issue further prompts questions regarding the conspicuous advertisements and promotions are done by these philanthropic foundations thus raising some fundamental questions. The central questions raised in the book majorly look into what or whom the foundations have the intention of passing and where they intend to take the nation. Moreover, do the organizations’ direction needed or do the people want to head that way. Eventually, do the foundations seek to establish the America sought for and to whom does the task of deciding on the direction of the foundations fall? As he answers these questions, the ultimate decision lies in keeping the growing rate of philanthropic organizations under check to ensure that the money they hold directly changes the society in a positive way. 

Similarly, the article on “Examining the Past and Future of Foundation Philanthropy,” by Benjamin Soskis and Stanley Katz for the Hewlett Foundation focuses on the potential realized by the philanthropic organizations. The article points out that a great majority of the CEOs of these philanthropic organizations report to achieving moderate results, but the potential to make a significant difference remains untapped. 

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In the Faber, Daniel and McCarthy, Deborah. 2005 article on, “Foundations for Social Change: Critical Perspectives on Philanthropy and Popular Movements”, the author explores the past heritage of social justice financing among foundations in the United States. The author presents two examples of foundations involved in social justice work, namely, the Boston women’s fund and the Haymarket people’s fund. On the one hand, the Haymarket people’s fund, existing since 1974, managed to pioneer the practice of grantmaking which works for larger foundations. Moreover, the Haymarket people’s fund receives massive fame for having a public philanthropy that has high levels of democratic organization. On the other hand, the Boston women’s fund which demonstrates high levels of democracy in allocations, programs, and development committees. 

In the article, “Is Philanthropy Good for Democracy,” by Gara LaMarche for The charitable view of the larger organizations come to the picture with depictions of the abuse of power by the elite class who set up the foundations such a Rockefeller, Sage and Carnegie. This abuse of authority led to the use of organizations to serve the self-interests and ideologies of the elite class. The abuse of power manifested as the small group of elites controlling the majority of industries as well as broadening the control to cover education and social services. The most exceptional foundation that did not embrace the power and control of the elite class was the renewal fund. The founder dedicated the entire income to funding social justice and programs for raising the social status of African Americans. In comparison to current organizations, the author emphasizes that “most of the large charitable organizations seem unlikely to fund progressive social movement activities”. All in all, the author emphasizes that foundations warrant adequate study as they hugely influence culture, life, and politics. In fact, those who believe in structural changes to accord everyone a decent living finds most foundations an impeding their efforts. The reason for this conception is that the foundations only seek to patch and cover up the problems ailing the society for their benefits. 

In the article, “The Future of Philanthropy,” The Nation, July 21, 2016, philanthropy seems to disagree with democracy where the leadership of the philanthropic organizations interferes with democratic policies as a measure of protecting their wealth from taxation. Such a case involved health reforms that could benefit a majority of the poor people yet the foundations only sought to amass more wealth at the expense of the poor. In fact, the foundations influence every political and economic decision to protect their selfish interests. Therefore, the moral authority of the philanthropic organizations seems wind-swept by the motivation on self-interests. 

Ruth Wilson Gilmore on the Shadow State outlines the foundations for philanthropic organizations seem to stem from complete freedom and lack of accountability to anybody. Other than exclusion from taxes, philanthropic foundations play a forceful role in challenging democracy. Notably, as these organizations’ wealth continues to grow, their tension with democracy grows in equal measure. From the beginning, these foundations have no elections of leaders and therefore have no accountability to the public on the expenditure of funds in their disposal. The limit is not on charity but on the lack of giving the proceeds to its owners. 

“ The Philanthropy Hustle,” by Lindsey McGoey outlines that market accountability does not apply thus giving the foundations an added advantage. Moreover, the legal framework for providing transparent documents rarely applies to these organizations thus dependent on the donor’s intentions. The author argues that although the philanthropic organizations help in decentralizing public good, the result always leads to the creation of a plutocratic society, one that hugely denies the full role of democracy. 

Similarly, the author in “Philanthrocapitalists Meet the World’s Poor: International Development in the FinTech Era,” notes that foundations do not offer the best of their abilities in serving public interests. For instance, although the Bill Gates foundations spend in health care funding, the funds do not serve the most serious diseases. Moreover, some of its investments go towards companies that create and perpetuate environmental pollution. This gap reflects the lack of accountability in foundations that stifles their capabilities since the donor has the final say. Also, the endless flow of funds into the philanthropic organizations results in profiteering. As such, the extent of activities worth deeming as donations and charity create a vacancy for philanthropic organizations to engage in all manner of activities. However, the author notes that proper utilization of foundations can make them the seed assets behind novelty in operative social policies in a democratic society. 


Dowie, M. (2002). American foundations: An investigative history . MIT Press. 

Benjamin, S. and Stanley, K. (2016). “ Examining the Past and Future of Foundation Philanthropy ” .The Hewlett Foundation. 

Faber, D., & McCarthy, D. (2005). Foundations for social change: Critical perspectives on philanthropy and popular movements . Rowman & Littlefield. 

Gara, L. (2016). “Is Philanthropy Good for Democracy: The Future of Philanthropy ,” The Nation. 

Gilmore, W. (2009). “ On the Shadow State: What are Foundations For ” .The Boston Globe. 

Macro Finance. (2017). “Philanthrocapitalists Meet the World’s Poor: International Development in the FinTech Era,” .Critical Macro Finance. 

McGoey, L. (2016). “The Philanthropy Hustle” . Jacobin Magazine. 

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