May 18, 2021
On this episode we talk to Teddy Schleifer, Senior Reporter,
Money & Influence at Recode (part of the Vox Media group), about
billionaires, Silicon Valley and philanthropy. Including:
Silicon Valley Philanthropy
- Do most tech billionaires see their wealth as “self-made”, or
do they recognise any sense of societal debt, luck etc? How does
this shape their giving?
- How does the wider public view the philanthropy of modern tech
- Are tech donors particularly prone to solutionism or a desire
for “moonshots” in their philanthropy?
- Are many big tech donors happy with the idea of giving away
power as well as money? Or are they likely to want to retain
control of decision-making about their philanthropy? Does this make
them any different to other big money donors?
- Are donors like Mackenzie Scott, who seem to be trying to shift
power as well as financial resources through her philanthropy,
merely outliers; or do they signal a wider trend?
Reporting on Philanthropy
- Why is it important to have journalists focussing on
- How do you balance focussing on the individual stories of
philanthropists vs systemic issues about philanthropy as a
- Is there an argument for more philanthropic funding of
journalistic scrutiny of philanthropy?
- Could increased philanthropic funding of news media actually
undermine journalism’s ability to hold philanthropy itself to
account? (E.g. if outlets self-censor to avoid upsetting existing
or potential patrons).
Critiques of Philanthropy
- Is there a danger that scrutiny can tip over into cynicism when
it comes to philanthropy?
- Should we worry 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?
- Do these critiques only really apply to big money/elite
Transparency in Philanthropy
- Do wealthy donors deliberately use philanthropy to deflect or
preclude criticism of their business dealings, tax affairs etc, or
are reputational benefits merely a side-effect of genuinely
altruistic behaviour in some cases?
- Do foundations (and donors) need to be more transparent? If so,
why and about what? Who does it benefit (the foundations
themselves, their donors, grantees, taxpayers etc.)
- Should we be concerned about the growing trend for elite donors
to use LLCs and other vehicles that may be less transparent?