My comments to Marketplace Radio on the Philanthropy 50 report are here.
Twitterers picked up on my observation that this big money was being used in traditional ways. It's true, but you get only so much in a Tweet - or a 60 second radio interview. The fact that these big philanthropic gifts go to hunger programs, education, health, environmental issues is partly because those are complicated issues that take a long time to progress against. They also are the tax-incentive sanctioned areas for charitable giving.
My point was not on the focus areas of the philanthropy, but the vehicles through which it is being deployed. Foundations, community foundations, donor advised funds - these are 100 year old products for managing philanthropic giving. They have an enormous built-in advantage in the marketplace in the form of the tax deduction attached to these products. These products also benefit from an established sales channel of estate planners, lawyers, trust services, development officers, etc.
What you don't see on the Philanthropy 50 list is innovation in the form in which the giving is done. There are lots of folks at the other end of the giving spectrum foregoing tax deductions to give money through crowdfunding platforms. There are folks at the wealthiest end of the spectrum foregoing traditional foundation forms (and tax deductions) to use LLCs or who are outsourcing some of their research and program costs. There are a variety of ways to structure the giving - but you don't see them on the Philanthropy 50 list.
It's simply striking to me that the list of financial vehicles for philanthropy on a 2014 list looks not unlike such a list compiled in 1954 or 1914 (the year in which community foundations came into being). Perhaps there's room for innovation in form?