Saturday, August 20, 2011
This Article explores the concept of philanthrocapitalism - an emerging model for charitable giving intended to enhance the practice of philanthropy through the application of certain business techniques, particularly envisioned as being deftly carried out by a subset of ultra-rich, experienced business people. During the past fifteen years, but most strikingly in the past five, private foundations influenced by philanthrocapitalism and its forbearers have become increasingly directive, controlling, metric focused, and business oriented with respect to their interactions with grantee public charities in an attempt to demonstrate that the work of the foundations is “strategic” and “accountable.” Combining empirical analysis and theoretical critique, this Article challenges the prevailing wisdom that philanthrocapitalism offers a better, smarter philanthropy, thereby strengthening the entire nonprofit sector. In fact, after observing and documenting the tenets of and rhetoric associated with philanthrocapitalism, there is a serious risk that the shift to business-like, market-driven giving may change the nature of philanthropy in ways we will come to regret. Moreover, this Article links concerns about philanthrocapitalism to a broader disquiet about the blurring lines between the public and the private. I argue that nonprofit scholars and advocates should pay greater attention to this movement and what its “success” might mean for the social sector.