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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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Jan 21, 2020

 In episode 64, we explore the philanthropic response to the ongoing bushfires in Australia and what it highlights about philanthropy issues and trends. We also give take a look at some of the other top philanthropy stories in the news.

The Aussie Bushfires:

  • How does the philanthropic response to the Aussie bushfires compare to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire last year?
  • Does it tell us anything about the differences between our response to man-made vs natural disasters, or disasters affecting man-made heritage vs natural heritage?
  • Does the fact that the Aussie bushfires are highly dispersed make a difference?
  • Are environmental issues less likely to be perceived as “elite”, and thus philanthropy focused on them less likely to be criticised as “self-interested”?
  • Is the response to the bushfires partly about people feeling a sense of agency over the issue of climate change, which often seems so huge that it can cause donation paralysis?
  • Does the fact that animals as well as humans have been affected make a difference?
  • Has the ongoing nature of the fires helped to make the relief effort itself a focus of philanthropy?
  • What questions does the voluntary nature of the firefighting services some raise about state responsibility vs that of philanthropy?
  • Has the response of elite philanthropists been slower than in the Notre Dame case? If so, why?
  • Could the fact that many Aussie philanthropists have made their money in extractive industries play a part in making them reticent to engage with a problem that is clearly being linked to climate change?
  • Celeste Barber’s Facebook fundraiser: what does her runaway success tell us about the distributed nature of fundraising in the future? What challenges does it highlight?
  • Other fundraising efforts: “The Nude Philanthropist” and altruistic drug dealers…


In other news:

  • MIT releases damning report into Jeffrey Epstein links- not good for the institution
  • Is there a “war on philanthropy”? Karl Zinnsmeister’s op ed for the Wall Street Journal, and the ongoing debate in the US.
  • Columbia Journalism Review article on challenges with philanthropic funding skewing the priorities of non-profit news orgs.
  • Harry & Meghan: stepping away from royal duty to focus on other things, in which philanthropy likely to play large role. Does this raise potentially interesting questions about the nature of inherited vs created wealth, ownership/stewardship, and the role of philanthropy vs being a public figure.


Related links

Aussie Bushfires


In other News: