Shifting Notions of Philanthropy: Themes in Scholarship and Practice
by Webb-Farley, Appalachian State University
Philanthropy plays a significant role in the US. With more than $358 billing donated in 2014, philanthropic giving has policy implications and is used to solve social ills. Some scholars have raised questions about the relationship between philanthropy and democracy, particularly the relationship between institutional giving and policy making. Broadly, however, both political science and public administration have understudied philanthropy’s role in society.
This lack of research is becoming more problematic as notions of philanthropy shift from a focus on giving to one that includes compounding the impact of a gift, or improving the return on investment. Through a review of the recent literature on philanthropy, this paper finds that there are two overarching themes in the scholarship: governance and policy. Both political science and public administration scholars should focus on three particular areas for further inquiry: philanthropy’s influence on policy, individual givers, and policy solutions to influence effective and equitable giving.