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In this episode we explore whether it is always necessary to say thank you for a philanthropic gift, whether it might sometimes be problematic, and the implications of how we choose to recognise donations.


  • If we view  philanthropy as a duty of justice, rather than a charitable choice, does that mean we have a right to expect it and therefore don’t need to be grateful?
  • Does this apply to all philanthropy, or only to certain cause areas (e.g. inequality and poverty?)
  • Is it just a pragmatic reality that we need to express gratitude to donors in order to keep them giving? Or does this sacrifice important principles? How does this relate to the debate over “donor-centric” vs “community-cnetric” approaches to fundraising?
  • If a donor expects or demands gratitude for their gift, does this become a problem? (And conversely, if the thanks is freely given is that OK?)
  • How has the expectation of gratitude historically been used as a tool of social control?
  • Is it appropriate to show thanks to an everyday donor giving a small gift? If so, is it paradoxical to argue that we should show less gratitude to a major philanthropic donor?
  • If donor/recipient relationships are more equal (e.g. as within mutual aid traditions) is it OK to show, or expect, gratitude then?
  • Is it possible to have mutual gratitude even within uneqaul funder/recipient relationships?
  • What can history and anthropology tell us about the relationship between giving, reciprocity and gratitude?
  • Is an expectation that a recipient of a gift should reciprocate in kind better than an expectation of gratitude? Does this rule out gifts where there is no realistic prospect of reciprocating?
  • What is the history of commemoration in the form of statues, plaques and naming rights?
  • Does this represent a problematic institutionalization of expectations of gratitude, or is it a natural response to a generous gift (and a crucial fundraising tool?)


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.