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On this episode, we talk to philosopher and lawyer Patricia Illingworth about her recent book Giving Now: Accelerating Human Rights for All, and about how we can apply the framework of human rights to some of the big questions about the nature and role of philanthropy.


  • What does it mean to use human rights as a framework for understanding donor responsibilities?
  • Is philanthropy a choice or a duty?
  • Do human rights responsibilities apply to all philanthropy, or just a certain portion of it? If a donor has given substantially to rights-furthering causes, is it acceptable for them to give additionally in a different way?
  • Would an idealized world still contain philanthropy, or would it be one in which all philanthropy was unnecessary? If there was still some philanthropy in an idealized world, what kind would it be?
  •  Is the rise of “purpose-driven business” and “compassionate capitalism” something we should welcome or be sceptical about?
  • Should nonprofits always reject tainted donations, or is it possible to “turn bad money into good”?
  • Can a human rights lens help us to determine whether source of wealth are tainted, and what course of action we should take?
  • In cases where wealth itself isn’t tainted through its mode of creation, but the donor may be ethically problematic, is it more or less acceptable to take the money?
  • What is “moral self-licensing” and why does it provide a basis for thinking that nonprofits should not accept untainted money from tainted donors?
  •  Do charities or funders that make use of “poverty porn” infringe on the human rights of recipients? What does this mean for nonprofit fundraising?
  • Can philanthropy be used to strengthen democracy, or is it inherently anti-democratic?
  •  How can a human rights lens help us to determine when philanthropy is acting positively even though it is running counter to democracy?
  • Why is a philosophical perspective on philanthropy valuable/important?

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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.