Trends in Philanthropy

March 8, 2019 • Volume 29, Issue 10
Do wealthy donors have too much influence?
By Alan Greenblatt


The nation's biggest donors are pouring billions of dollars into philanthropic causes, winning praise from charities but also raising concerns that the wealthy may be gaining too much influence in American life. At the same time, experts say the 2017 overhaul of U.S. tax law reduced the incentive for small donors to give to charity even as it preserved tax benefits for wealthy donors. Meanwhile, donor-advised funds — investment accounts where donors can deposit gifts of money, stock or other assets that grow tax-free until grants are made to charity — are seeing meteoric growth. Critics worry that such funds lack sufficient transparency and that billions of dollars are piling up in the accounts instead of supporting good works. Many Millennials, meanwhile, are steering away from traditional giving and instead volunteering or starting their own nonprofits. And some charities are seeking to improve their effectiveness by investing in private companies that align with their missions.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13, 2018, discusses his $2 billion philanthropy fund, which focuses on homelessness and early-childhood education. Critics worry megadonors are gaining an outsized influence in philanthropy, but supporters say large-scale gifts can help address entrenched problems. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Philanthropy and Charities
Mar. 08, 2019  Trends in Philanthropy
May 11, 2012  Celebrity Advocacy
Aug. 03, 2007  Corporate Social Responsibility
Dec. 08, 2006  Philanthropy in America
Jan. 22, 1999  Role of Foundations
Feb. 27, 1998  The New Corporate Philanthropy
Nov. 12, 1993  Charitable Giving
Dec. 23, 1988  Philanthropy: the Season for Giving
Dec. 12, 1986  New Faces of Charity
Dec. 03, 1982  The Charity Squeeze
Jan. 11, 1974  American Philanthropy
Mar. 05, 1969  Voluntary Action: People and Programs
Mar. 20, 1963  Tax-Exempt Foundations: Privileges and Policies
Oct. 12, 1955  Joint Fund Raising
Sep. 11, 1953  Charity Appeals
Jan. 05, 1949  Tax Exempt Foundations
Antitrust and Monopolies
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
General Social Trends
Powers and History of the Presidency