If the goal is philanthropy’s ultimate obsolescence or even merely reform, I suggest one compass we might follow is not judging whether giving is big enough or smart enough, but instead considering whether it’s shifting power instead of accumulating it. These days, as I’m critiquing funders and their programs, that’s the gauge I’m often holding up in the back of my mind.
This basic principle has existed within various frameworks for a long time. I’m thinking of NCRP’s model of responsive philanthropy, the Whitman Institute’s trust-based philanthropy, Aaron Horvath and Walter Powell’s contributory philanthropy, or Chiara Cordelli’s argument that much of philanthropy should be considered reparative justice with limited donor discretion. Giridharadas urges the wealthy to “give something up” instead of merely “giving back,” by elevating structural changes like a global capital tax, for example.