Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Good News!

2014 was a banner year for US  philanthropy, a big jump in giving from 2013 and really stunning proof that in most respects all charity is benefitting. Giving to religion continues to decline as the number of the unaffiliated continues to grow; and  inexplicably giving to overseas causes was down probably because the really cataclysmic events that propel crisis giving did not occur to the same extent as  in prior years. There's a  lot of glimmer  on the surface.

But war, millions of displaced people, continued climate warming, Ebola and other pandemics, totally preventable deaths from malaria, lack of sanitation, unchecked population growth  - and other natural calamities still affect the planet. On bad days I'd like to give up; on good ones I tell myself that change is one person and one event at a time.

The good news is that wealth creation in this country (and with it increasing inequality as it concentrates  in fewer and fewer hands) offers great philanthropic opportunity. The not-so-good news is that the philanthropic sector, in my view, lacks the resources, imagination, technology and plain old know-how to catch that speeding train. The neediest charities benefit the least and the uber-wealthy who have pledged half their fortunes to charity direct their gifts mostly to higher education and other large institutions. Yes, it is their money.

Last week Barack Obama had what left and right both agree was the best week of his presidency. The thinking in more than half the country is ahead of Congress, the Supreme Court and most state legislatures. The conjunction between the US  mind set now on these root social issues - and the critical leavening role of philanthropy has not been made yet and I see that as an opportunity as well.

My guess is that giving will continue to grow in 2015. The challenges will remain, as will the opportunities.