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What is Philanthropy For? (out March 2023)


Philanthropy, the use of private assets for public good, has been much criticised in recent years. Do elite philanthropists wield too much power? Is big-money philanthropy unaccountable and therefore anti-democratic? And what about so-called “tainted donations” and “dark money” funding pseudo-philanthropic political projects? The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified many of these criticisms, leading some to conclude that philanthropy needs to be fundamentally reshaped if it is to play a positive role in our future.

Drawing on deep knowledge of the past and present landscape of philanthropy, this book explains why it’s important to ask what philanthropy is for, because it has for centuries played a major role in shaping our world. Considering the alternatives, including charity, justice, taxation, the state, democracy and the market, the book examines the pressing questions that philanthropy must tackle if it is to be equal to the challenges of the 21st century.


Public Good by Private Means: How Philanthropy Shapes Britain (2016)


In today’s Britain, where the welfare state uses tax to meet our basic needs and we can buy what we want, does philanthropy still have a role, and if so, what is it?

More importantly, how can we ensure that it is an effective force for good?

This book aims to answer these questions. It tells the story of philanthropy through the ages, the relationship between philanthropists, the state and society, and throws light on the successes – and sometimes spectacular failures – of great philanthropists from the past.

Above all, it shows how the lessons learned from generations of philanthropists and the good, bad or plain ugly results of their well-meaning endeavors suggest principles that should guide public policy on philanthropy to help us overcome some of the most complex and deeply entrenched challenges facing our society.


Learn from our past to better understand our future.

Philanthropy has a long and varied history. We’ve created bite-size chapters that you can jump in and out of to better understand philanthropy.