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Welcome to the Giving Thought Podcast, a bi-weekly exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society from the Charities Aid Foundation’s in-house think-tank, Giving Thought.

In each episode your host Rhodri Davies (formerly with co-host Adam Pickering) explores a big issue, theme or trend and analyses what it means for philanthropy and civil society around the world.

Be sure to check the show notes for each podcast and find blogs, reports and videos from Giving Thought and do get in touch if you have questions or suggestions at

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Jul 9, 2019

In episode 53, we look at structure and philanthropy. Exploring how philanthropy and civil society has become structured over time, what the drivers for this are, and what new possibilities the future may hold. Including:

  •  The reformation and the dismantling of medieval catholic infrastructure for giving
  • Urbanisation, poverty and associated philanthropy
  • The charitable/philanthropic tradition vs the mutual/cooperative tradition in the UK
  • Concerns about 'faction' and voluntary association in the US
  • Benefits of structure: coordination, economies of scale, setting and maintaining strategy, separating the individual from their role, making rules explicit
  • Structure and power: formalisation as a form of social control?
  • Endowed structures: foundations, trusts and waqfs
  • Nonprofit and charity structures in the UK and US
  • Donor Advised Funds and Charitable Remainder Trusts
  • Non-traditional structures: LLCs, B Corps etc.
  • Disintermediating giving: direct cash transfers and crowdfunding
  • Network social movements and the "Tyranny of Structurelessness



Related Links:

-My book, Public Good by Private Means: How philanthropy shapes Britain

-Dobkin Hall, P. (1999) “Resolving the Dilemmas of Democratic Governance: The Historical Development of Trusteeship in America, 1636-1996” in Condliffe Lagemann (ed) Philanthropic Foundations: New Scholarship, New Possibilities

-Morris, R.J. (1990) “Clubs, Societies & Associations” in Thompson (ed) The Cambridge Social History of Britain vol 3.

-Morris, R.J. (1983) “Voluntary Societies and British Urban Elites, 1780-1850: An Analysis”, The Historical Journal, vol 26, No. 1

-Davies (2014)“Give Me a Break: Why the UK should not aspire to a ‘US-style’ culture of charitable giving, Giving Thought discussion paper

-My piece for HistPhil on “Networked Social Movements and the “Tyranny of Structurelessness””