May 28, 2019
In episode 50, we talk to Phil Buchanan- founding CEO of the
Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of a new book:
Giving Done Right: Effective Giving and Making Every Dollar
Count. We discuss current debates about philanthropy and what
we need to do to ensure a positive narrative about the value of
giving in our society as we head into the future. Including:
- What is the core role of philanthropy within society which
differentiates it from either state or market provision?
- A key strength of philanthropy is often argued to be its
ability to drive society forward by taking risks and funding things
that the state or market cannot - but how much current philanthropy
actually lives up to this billing?
- Why has the idea that non-profits need to be “more
business-like” become so widespread, and why is it wrong?
- One of the effects of taking an “investment approach” is that
donors can then be reluctant to fund core costs or to give
unrestricted funding- why is this such a problem?
- Is part of the problem with the “overhead myth” that donors
want some measure of the effectiveness of their giving, and in the
absence of compelling evidence they are forced to rely on unhelpful
financial measures like overhead ratios? What can we do to provide
them with better metrics?
- Is there a danger that the growing wave of scepticism, and even
cynicism towards philanthropy, will have a negative impact on
people’s willingness to give?
- Of the current critiques levelled at philanthropy, which are
potentially misguided or overstated, and which are genuinely
important to heed?
- Some argue that since philanthropy is to some extent a product
of structural inequality, it can never truly be part of the
solution – but do some donors and funders recognise this challenge;
and how are they genuinely pursuing structural change?
- The freedom that philanthropy has to run counter to the status
quo or the policies and public opinion of a particular time has
been a key part of driving historic social change. How do we
preserve this freedom, whilst also answering concerns that
unchecked philanthropic power could end up being
- Do we need to make philanthropy more democratic, or accountable
to the people and communities it is supposed to serve? If so,
- Is there a challenge in balancing long-term innovation against
the needs of the present? i.e. when does "big bet" philanthropy
become wasteful or self-indulgent, and how much wasted
philanthropic effort are we as a society prepared to accept in the
name of "discovery"?