The Changing Face of Philanthropy

“Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.”
-Andrew Carnegie, from his essay, “The Gospel of Wealth”

What does a philanthropist look like?

Forbes Magazine recently gathered twelve “Titans of Philanthropy” for a photo shoot for the 30th annual Forbes 400 issue. The Forbes 400 issue ranks the richest people in the world who have given the most money away. On this year’s cover (the image in this post is only a snippet of the whole photograph):

  • Bill and Melinda Gates have given away nearly $28 billion and started a foundation to change the world.
  • Warren Buffett, currently ranked the third richest man in the world, has pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth.
  • Oprah Winfrey, the world’s most philanthropic celebrity, has supported of education and social programs around the world.
  • CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynn (not pictured) donated $100 million to build a San Fransisco children’s hospital.
  • Leon Black and his wife Debra (not pictured) donated $48 million to a new visual arts center at Dartmouth College.
  • Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and Marc Andreessen will give away half of their wealth.
  • David Rubenstein donated $7.5 million to fix the Washington Monument.
  • Jon Bon Jovi’s Jovi Soul Foundation has built and restored over 300 homes. Jovi’s new Soul Kitchen project feeds thousands through a “pay what you can afford” restaurant model.
  • Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and founder of the Case Foundation which is dedicated to employing the internet and social media to make philanthropy more efficient.
  • Peter Peterson, advocate of sustainable government, known for sizable contributions in the political arena.

The photo was taken in the Trustees Room at the New York Public Library during the first ever Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. More than 160 billionaires attended the summit, but only the “Titans of Philanthropy” were photographed for the cover. View this video for more details on the photo shoot.

The Changing Faces of Philanthropy

Aside from being a stunning photograph of 12 phenomenally generous people, the photo captures the changing face of philanthropy itself:

Five of the Titans are age 50 or younger, with the majority under the age of 60.

Three are women, one of whom is “self-made” (not to discount the enormous contributions of Melinda Gates and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen who work tirelessly to oversee enormous philanthropic gifts.)

One is not only a woman, but an African American.

It’s enough to conclude, “Philanthropy: it’s not just for rich old white men anymore!”

Trends in Philanthropy

Philanthropy itself is changing, along with philanthropists. Some of the trends include:

1. Giving has gone global.

As Allison Fine says in her article, “Top Five Changes to Corporate Philanthropy,”  “When brands are global, so is their philanthropy. American companies have exported their philanthropic effort wherever they are doing business around the world.”

The Gates Foundation is a prime example. As summarized by a 2011 Foundation Overview, the Gates Foundation contributions can be roughly broken down into three categories:

The United States Program accounts for approximately 15% of the grants funded by the foundation. This program focuses on supporting education, including scholarships and new charter schools to a new Computer Science building at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Global Development Program funds approximately 20% of the grants funded by the Foundation, supporting micro-loans, agricultural development, and economic development research.

By far the largest program of the Gates Foundation is their Global Health Program, which accounts for nearly 60% of the Foundation’s grants. Priorities for this program include

  • Vaccines and immunizations (the fund provides 17% – US $86 million in 2006 – of the world budget for the attempted eradication of polio)
  • HIV research (US $287 million supporting 16 different research teams)
  • Solving the sanitation crisis. Extensive research and development of new toilets aims to change sanitation in developing countries.

2. Philanthropy is increasingly done through collaboration and partnerships.

Warren Buffet will be channeling the bulk of his wealth through the Gates Foundation. Jon Bon Jovi and band mates donated $1 million to Hurricane Katrina relief that year through Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network. Philanthropists recognize that there an efficiency in partnering (as opposed to re-creating the same wheel), and there is also a synergy of gifts. Celebrities and business tycoons partner up to offer what they can in publicity, influence, and resources.

3. Small is beautiful: Micro-Philanthropy and Crowdfunding

Does writing a check to a large charity feel a bit impersonal? Micro-Philanthropy charities such as literally “match make” givers directly with those who just need a little help. highlights classrooms requesting donations for projects.

Online “crowdfunding” sites such as are used for worthy causes and business startups alike, allowing many contributors to donate small or large amounts, typically, from $10 or less to thousands. Crowdfunding has all but replaced the need for large donors and angel investors in some corners, seeking a large volume of donors with small and modest contributions, rather than a few with large contributions.

4. Giving has gone online

The trends in Micro-philanthropy and crowdfunding highlight one other big trend: the internet is being leveraged to encourage giving. Traditional foundations are utilizing blogs and online video, and giving campaigns of all sizes utilize websites as their primary portal for collecting funds.

5. The role of women in philanthropy is exploding.

Both as givers and managers of philanthropic funds, women play an ever-growing role in philanthropy. Without the tireless efforts of women such as Melinda Gates, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Jean Case (who runs the Case Foundation, wife of Steve Case, one of the pictured Titans) and Debra Black (another Titan wife), there is no doubt that the funds earned by their husbands’ companies could never have made such an impact.

But lest we relegate women to a “support” role in philanthropy, make no mistake, women are making more money and starting more businesses than ever, and, they are giving more of it away. A article on “Women and Philanthropy”  estimated that women give away their wealth at a rate of nearly double to men.

“Me, a Philanthropist!?”

“Anyone can be a philanthropist, even if you are pooling money with hundreds of other every day people to create the impact you desire,” says Kate Phillips of Total Wealth Coaching.  “It all begins with simply seeing yourself as a contributor.”

To help facilitate this self-image, Phillips created a workshop process in which women (typically not millionaires) learned to envision themselves as future philanthropists. Guided to estimate how much money they might yet earn through their careers or businesses, they imagine giving 10% of the money to causes that are meaningful to them, either through existing charities or new ones they could create. The women then write and share thank-you letters from the charities they support and the people whose lives they touch. Often with tears, they realize the enormous impact they are capable of making.

Your team at Partners for Prosperity likes to give some of its profits to Heifer International. You’ll notice them in our “partners” section under Multiply.

Perhaps… the changing face of philanthropy could be… YOURS!

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