Geologic Eras of Philanthropy

The above is another view of the development of the philanthropic industry - you can compare it to this one. Please send improvements, suggestions, revisions, etc. to lucy (at) blueprintrd dot com. I'm happy to email you a copy of either graphic, on three conditions:

  1. You let me know what you think of it;
  2. You make suggestions on how to improve it;
  3. You let me know how you use it (and you note proper attribution to me if/when you use it)


kevin jones said...

i wonder why the hard line between philanthropy and capital that asks for a return. they are in deals together now; from grants to debt to equity.

Lucy Bernholz said...

You're right - and its where things are going. I'll take a crack at showing that more clearly. Thanks.

Gena Rotstein said...

Hi Lucy,
I tried emailing this to you through the email address on your blog - but it bounced back...

I have been meaning to contact you since you posted the graphs on the timeline of philanthropy and the evolution of the business of giving. Thank you for making an image out of what I have been talking about to my clients and students!

I recently conducted some focus groups on adaptive philanthropy through the lens of the business of giving and one of the things that came out of the discussions is the historical roots of philanthropy. The groups that met with (2 out of the 3) discussed the evolution of the church and its role in philanthropy. I noticed on your chart that you start in the 1960's. I would posit that the geologic timeline of philanthropy could be taken back to the Greek philosophers who coined the term, "love of man". During biblical times (my estimation is around the time that the Israelites were wandering in the desert) the concept of philanthropy has been documented when they took a shekel for each person, not as a tax, but as a community chest for those who could not support themselves (book of Exodus). Then later once the nomad Israelites settled the economics of philanthropy really took shape in the leaving a corner of the field unharvested for the poor (Book of Ruth).

Our modern day approach to philanthropy, has really turned the original idea of "love of man" and how that is reflected on its head. Perhaps it is time for a new word for the actions that we as a society are undertaking since, I would argue, we have really moved away from the spirit of the concept.

I hope you have a great day.

Gena Rotstein

Sidney said...

First of all, the timeline is great! I have a few random thoughts and then a question.
I would argue that there are at least three tipping point moments that serve as the foundation for the dawn of philanthropy era.

1. The development of the DAF at community foundations (cfs) in the 1930s as noted in A Flexible and Growing Service to Donors (2002).
2. The “rediscovery” of the promise and flexibility of donor advised funds in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s and the increased buzz around the notion of donor-centrism.
3. The reorganizing of community foundation operational structure with the creation of the first full-time donor services and development department staff helped to cement the donor-as-customer movement in cfs where donors were seen as an asset that cfs should support, measure, manage, and maximize just like any other asset.

Now for the question: Has anyone investigated the impact of the “era of disruption” on the understanding of giving as “philanthropy.” I think some of the online markets visionaries would argue that they do not see what they are doing as “philanthropy.” As we study social media users in the context of “giving” with the community philanthropy 2.0 project, we hope to determine what words are being used.