Thursday, February 15, 2007

Philanthropy as business

Three posts caught my eye on this issue today, and I smiled as I remembered how I used to get asked to leave the room when I defined philanthropy as an industry and now, well, gee, everyone thinks so.

Sean Stannard-Stockton over at notes the creation of disparate business - tourism, media, and investment management - all with a focus on philanthropists as customers. He should add in there the rise of advisory firms, technology companies, and multi-family offices that target philanthropic individuals as clients.

Over in the UK, on the other hand, the issue of philanthropy as business is raised to make a very different point. Michael Schrage, writing in the Financial Times, discusses the difference between corporate social responsibility (in which good works are secondary to the institution's role as a business) and philanthropy, in which the organizations are in the business of good works. His point - that the standards of transparency and accountability to which we hold businesses that do "good works" is surprisingly higher than that to which we hold the "good works" businesses. Schrage goes on to point out the differences in how this is being regulated between the UK and the US.

Which brings me to the third post - started by a comment on this blog and shifted over to where Kevin Jones correctly notes that the lack of structural incentives to transparency are the real issue for philanthropy, and good ideas, bold media investigations, and technology are not enough to change those structural issues.

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