Philanthropy Trends

Philanthropy is an age-old activity. It has much evolved over the centuries and today too it takes many forms depending on cultures and religions. In the past few years, the media and the universities have been the scene of a major debate on the philanthropic calling and on the various philanthropic trends. There are more and more chairs of Philanthropy, which is becoming the subject of an increasing number of studies and publications. With all that, as always, philanthropy is still driven by friendship between human beings and by their wish to relieve and encourage each other.
This blog is a forum about philanthropy. It welcomes the contributions of intellectuals, of researchers, of religious personalities, and of donors alike. It also aims at expressing the spirit that drives the founders and leaders of the Matanel Foundation.

Blog archive


Noga Brenner Samia


Adin Steinsaltz


Melissa A. Berman, President & CEO, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Ami Bouganim


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Ami Bouganim
A Global Culture of Giving is Emerging

The practice of philanthropy has begun a sea change in the last decade, one that make take at least the next decade to be fully resolved. From our vantage point, we see emerging a global culture of giving. Several forces drive this development. First, flows of technology, travel and capital have created an explosion of awareness about global matters both around the globe – AIDs, poverty, lack of education – as well as awareness that matters are global – climate change, migration, terrorism.

Second, in many, many countries we’ve reassessed the role of the public sector, either by belief or of necessity. In many places government resources are shrinking. More critically, the belief that governments and multilateral institutions will solve problems has been deeply shaken and often abandoned. 

A new set of expectations has emerged from these changes. First is that the ultra-wealthy should be actively involved in philanthropy – not just generous, but informed and committed. Second, we now look to the private sector – whether for-profit or nonprofit or a hybrid – as the engine of innovation and change. In fact, we are re-defining philanthropy to include impact investing, social enterprise, and crowd-sourcing.

What are the indicators of this global culture of giving? Think about all the programs about philanthropy that banks, multi-family offices, consulting firms and other service providers now offer on virtually every continent. Note that the World Economic Forum now has sessions on philanthropy and impact investing. Look at the reaction that the Giving Pledge is getting around the world – it may be criticized in some places, but it’s being discussed. The idea of not passing all one’s wealth on to children used to be largely an American perspective, but now we hear people from many cultures and regions express an intent to apply a significant amount of their wealth to social change rather than dynastic strength.

These donors are getting involved earlier in their lives, and bring their intellectual, social and human capital along with their financial capital. They are willing to be make big bets – but are focused on measurable results, leverage and scale.

As these global culture of giving spreads over the next decade, we’ll be faced with some fascinating challenges and opportunities – some if which may be hard to tell apart. Among the risks we need be aware of is the sad fact that impact assessment is still more an art than a science. If we can’t move that field further forward, many new donors will walk away in frustration (and many billions in funding will leave no trace behind). There will certainly be too many new programs created by the desire to be innovative, and we’ll have to try to refocus the discussion on what’s effective. And expectations for philanthropy may be unrealistic. Most of the money for social change is still in the public sector. 

But the positive developments could be remarkable. With some good stories to tell and some real results to graph, the global culture of giving could expand rapidly in a virtuous cycle, spread by the technologies of social media – along with older technologies like conversations on yachts and golf courses.

© 2012, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.

Delusive Philanthropy

Charity has been always a corrective commandment, which the Jewish people have always fulfilled in an honorable manner. Regrettably, as was observed in the Diaspora, it does not fit well within the Israeli national sovereignty, and sometimes it has pernicious secondary consequences. The state of Israel is still impregnated, to a certain degree, by the Halukka (Hebrew: החלוקה‎), the organized distribution and collection of funds for the residents of the Yishuv haYashan in the Holy Land, under which residents of Jerusalem have lived for many generations. Actually the Halukka regime was replaced by the generosity of the Baron De Rothschild, The Famous Benefactor, Father of the new Yishuv. Thereafter we demanded and received reparations from Germany, and later attached our independence to American generosity, to the tune of a few billion dollars a year. Recently, more and more donors, less and less anonymous, neglect the poor in order to bribe – legally and ingeniously – a wide range of politicians, institutes and NGOs. They partially finance our election campaigns and fill the empty coffers of our political parties.. Some of these foundations are receiving from the government more than they give, in order to distribute scholarships, mostly without proper supervision and control, among the eternal schnorrers of the Israeli academic world and the various institutes, flourishing like a tree planted by streams of money. One cannot underestimate the true repercussions of that private money on public morality. Most foundations were started modestly, in humble environments, but soon moved to ostentatious offices, mostly to satisfy the ambitions of their representatives in the country. Some of these are truly upstarts, adorning themselves in the riches of their benefactors, and refer to themselves, more than their employers, as the new lords of the state of Israel.

Theoretically, the proceedings of these foundations should have been none of our interests – since everyone may dispense with his money as he wishes – were it not for the fact that they reestablish the atmosphere if not the reality of the Halukka. It is not for me to deny the right of Jews around the world to distribute their money in Israel, even assuming that it exempts them from settling in the land and carry some of the burden of its defense; I honor their right to take any stand regarding Israel as the Jewish state, even denying its right to fancy itself as such. However, I cannot accept their involvement, to the tune of several hundred million dollars a year, in Israel's sovereignty. This involvement corrupts public morality, and absolves the government from its duties to confront social, educational and cultural problems; it enriches a tiny stratum of activists who control the flow of that money, and tend to behave as unbearable colonialists. The inflation of the Third Sector is a byproduct of a ferocious Liberalism, abandoning the weak and disadvantaged of society, combined with the collapse of the government's social functions. It is a byproduct of both phenomena as well as white collar parasitism, sponsored by universities, research institutes and a variety of questionable NGOs.

Many of the donors are motivated by a true love for the state of Israel. They truly believe that they contribute to the development of the country, helping the needy and advancing Tikun Olam i.e. the Reparation of the World which requires justice and charity. However they are mostly unaware of the negative implications of their philanthropy. Thin boundaries separate philanthropy from colonialism, especially in a small country like Israel where philanthropists are highly regarded. Hannah Arendt underlined the risk of mutual hatred between donors and beneficiaries which philanthropy may generate. On the one hand the donors enjoy the honors bestowed on them, the power, real or imaginary, which their money buys for them, simultaneously hating the beneficiaries who are unable to extricate themselves from their backwardness. On the other hand the beneficiaries flatter the donors while hating them proportionally to their dependence on them. Thus, philanthropy may cross the boundaries of good taste and deteriorates into colonialism, accompanied by arbitrariness if not domineering, and a taste of patronage, mostly cultural.

Colonialism plagues in particular the efforts of the American Jewish community to "convert" by all means Israeli students and youth to Judaism. American foundations pour millions of dollars to a variety of so called "Jewish Renewal" projects, exporting here Jewish patterns and modes inappropriate neither to the theological-civic reality of the country nor to the wishes of its inhabitants. Having failed in bequeathing their dogmas to the public – which is the general rule – they try selling their wares to the elites. We have just buried the Shenhar report on enhancing Jewish education in state schools, and the foundations go on pouring money into various NGOs, which are unable to compete with the charm that India exerts on a multitude of young secular Israeli travelers. And among the orthodox public, NGOs keep applying artificial respiration to Torah and charitable organizations, perpetuating the dependency of honest people on an obsolete way of life. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested during the last decades in multiple projects, from welfare to education, and all we see in those spheres is deterioration and malfunctioning of the state.

I am afraid that Philanthropy, as it is expressed in Israel, among other places, is mostly driving away philanthropists, instead of bringing them near. They are disliked, them as well as their representatives, and this rejection is un-concealable. As a general rule, beneficiaries do not like their benefactors. They are strangers, alienated from each other, especially when the benefactors are suspicious of the use of their resources. In such cases they tend to augment their involvement, directly or otherwise, augmenting as well the frustration of their beneficiaries. "The rich," wrote Ernest Bloch, "like to gamble, using the poor as stakes" (E. Bloch, Traces, Gallimard, Paris, 1968, p. 37). And the poet Heinrich Heine raged against the honors bestowed on the Rothschilds: "For Mammon," he cried, "is our God and Rothschild is his prophet" (H. Heine, Lutèce, Ressources, Genève, 1979, p.183). Achad ha'Am did not spare the first settlers of Rishon Le Zion, living, frightened and humiliated, under the yoke of the Baron's bureaucracy, praising them in his legendary sarcasm, for raising vines at the price of depressing their stature.
We must investigate the foundations of Israel's economy. If we are so dependent on charity from abroad, political or philanthropic, perhaps it's time to develop a new economic theory or a new model of a state.

Recent tendencies in philanthropy in Brazil

Dr. Willy Van Ryckeghem is a lifelong
consumerist, co-founder of the Belgian
consumer organization Test-Achats, and
former president of Consumers International.
In 2005, he moved to Brazil to assist the
consumer organization Pro Teste, which is
now the largest in Latin America, with close
to 300,000 members.

The Brazilian economy has registered substantial progress in recent years, accompanied by a better distribution in income and wealth of the population. One would expect that as a result of this economic and social progress, donations to philanthropic institutions would also have risen. A recent article published in the magazine VEJA sheds some light on this issue. The article is based on a study commissioned by the NGO Fundo Cristao para Crianças.
Following a socio-economic classification of income classes (A,B,C and D) the analysis carried out by the consulting firm R. GARBER extracts information about philanthropic donations from the official income and expenditure surveys of 2003 and 2010. Some of the conclusions are surprising and deserve comment.
The first surprise is a decline in the percentage of donors in the total population from 10 percent in 2003 to 9 percent in 2010. This decline occurred in practically all regions of the country. As a result, total donations fell from 5.4 billion to 5.2 billion in money terms, and declined even more in real terms when one takes into account inflation of about 5% per annum.
The second even larger surprise is that the decline is mostly accounted for by a decline in donations by the highest income class A, which comprises the very rich in Brazil, and whose total donations declined by 37%. Contributions by the lowest income class D also declined by 62%. The interpretation given by VEJA is that the rich examine very carefully the use of their donations, and have become suspicious about corruption in the management of philanthropic institutions. I personally think that this interpretation is incorrect, and that the rich feel (rightly or wrongly) that the country has progressed so much that as a result the need for philanthropy has decreased.
The third surprise is that the middle income class C, which has been the fastest growing group in the population, has increased its donations by 28%. This means that people who moved from income class D to C between 2003 and 2010 and who now have the means to make some donations, now feel the obligation to devote some of their additional income to philanthropic causes. They have experienced poverty from close by and as a result are more knowledgeable of the needs of the remaining poor.
Unfortunately, the study gives no indication of the destination of the funds by type of charitable cause. I will attempt to gather this information at a later date.

Between Humanistic and Political Philanthropy

Dr. Meir Buzaglo is the Head of the department of philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The areas he researches include the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of physics, the philosophy of language and the philosophy of Judaism.

Among Dr. Buzaglo's fields of interest are the Philosophy of Maimonides and  Solomon Maimon. A son of R. David Buzaglo, one of the greatest Moroccan Jews composers and performer of pyyutim, Dr. Buzaglo, a member of Avi Chai Foundation, is active in the rejuvenation of that musical tradition. He is chairman of "Tikun" Movement for the renewal of society and culture in Israel.

Should Philanthropy be subjected to Ethics? Seemingly, the Idea is out of place, it would be as if we subjected the righteous to a test of righteousness, while he is giving indulgently. However, since philanthropy is a human activity we are obliged to evaluate it. Henceforth I shall distinguish goodwill toward mankind, or benevolence from largess. Philanthropy as benevolence is quite easy to evaluate, in comparison to largess. I do not intend to contribute to that discourse by floating the ethical dilemmas faced by philanthropy as largess, but by demanding that these dilemmas be scrutinized, especially in view of the importance of this type of philanthropy in our abnormal times.  

Philanthropy's double meaning

The term Philanthropy is associated with Prometheus the philanthropist, who due to his goodwill toward mankind, stole the fire from mount Olympus and gave it to mankind along with hope. The link between the two gifts is obvious: fire by itself, manifested as potency and technology, is insufficient, and its potential destructiveness requires hope for better days. On the other hand, inert hope carries the seeds of impotency, and is bound to become an empty illusion. However, with the passing of time, and particularly in contemporary Israel, Philanthropy has turned from goodwill toward mankind into a neutral term, denoting largess. That is its Hebrew translation. Therefore we are dealing with two concepts of Philanthropy, parallel and related to each other. Largess, the second concept, means donating money for a specific objective, be it the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, or the promotion of Arab women, Jewish education, or egalitarian, democratic education. Goodwill toward mankind, Philanthropy's original meaning, does not imply material donations, volunteering to work towards humanity's welfare is sufficient. Thus Albert Schweitzer is considered a philanthropist without donating any money, side by side with Warren Buffet or any other benevolent soul who donates to the upkeep of a soup kitchen serving hungry children. The second concept – emphasizing material donations – widens the scope of philanthropic deeds, even while regulating them by law. 

These two concepts of Philanthropy – empathy on the one hand, promotion of a private agenda on the other, pose before whoever wants to say something about the Ethics of Philanthropy – about receiving as well as giving – very different types of questions. The shift from Philanthropy as a commitment to the welfare of humankind – teaching children the alphabet, fighting hunger – the highest expression of humanism, to Philanthropy as largesse, transfers whoever ventures to estimate Philanthropy, from having to express an opinion about humanism, to the embarrassing position of having to grapple with a variety of questions. We move from simple charity to a conscious human political act. Indeed, concerning an agenda promoting Philanthropy, we cannot express a general opinion; everything depends on a person's attitude and his or her relation to that specific agenda. If one concurs with it he will have a positive opinion, and vice versa. This may even evolve into a struggle against Philanthropy, as discernible lately in Egypt where there is a fierce opposition to American Philanthropy in support of democracy, and in Israel where the New Israel Fund is under attack, and all philanthropic donations are under rigorous scrutiny.                        

Democracy and Philanthropy: a subject for study

This subject raises many questions, difficult ones; perhaps we may even discuss a compass – an Ethical code governing Philanthropy within a democratic state. How should we evaluate a newspaper such as "Israel Today" whose purpose is to praise the prime minister? Where should we draw the lines? By the act of giving his money not to an elected government, the philanthropist uses his wealth to exert influence in matters that are in dispute, perhaps even  against the electorate's will, while not being elected democratically to meddle in matters pertaining to the good of the country or otherwise. In a global world where a few magnates may be as potent as countries, Philanthropy as largesse may rightly be seen as an invasion or a threat to a country's independence.  Anyone who is on the receiving end of Philanthropy should ask himself this and perhaps other questions.  

Might and Responsibility

How do things look from the philanthropist point of view? I can only assume that more complicated than he estimated. After overcoming the first dilemma of his very right to exercise his might, while not having been elected democratically, an old style philanthropist would have been interested in the sums of money involved, and in maximizing the benefits. He would have to consider priorities such as: education versus food for the hungry etc.; Reaching the real needy as opposed to those who are better positioned to reach donors, etc.  The current situation, as an outcome of capitalism, forces the philanthropist to grapple with questions and responsibilities unknown to those practicing Philanthropy in its original concept. However sure he is today of his donation, he may change his mind in the near or far future, not to mention the fact that his money may be used contrary to his intention.  Regrettably sitting and doing nothing is not an option, since while one may avoid donating in the hope of causing no damage, other philanthropists may jump on that wagon, thus effectively his might imposes on him specifically duties from which he cannot withdraw. 

Between the Philanthropist and the Investor

In this context it makes sense to note the distinction between the Philanthropist and the Investor. A philanthropist who has his own interests in mind is actually an investor. A real philanthropist, true to the original sense of the term, ignores his own interest. Incidentally he may gain personally; this does not disqualify his donation, on the contrary. But, if by donating he gains access to the authorities, and furthers his own interests, we may suspect his motives. As a matter of fact, a true philanthropist often betrays his own or his social class's interests, for example Prometheus, or Moses who exited the king Pharaoh's palace in order to witness the afflictions of his brothers.  Therefore when discussing the ethical problems facing a philanthropist, we should make a clear distinction between he who truly gives and the other who has his own interests in mind. 
In the web of strategies

As someone whose involvement with Philanthropy is negligible (with the exception perhaps of one foundation), these are the questions that I pose to myself as a layman.  But if I may, I would like to comment here not as a neutral researcher, but as a social and communal activist. There is no definite answer to whether benevolence is preferable to largess or vice versa. The distinction between humanist and political philanthropy and the donations emanating from each depends on the circumstances. There is a big difference between philanthropy in normal and in non-normal times. I will try to elaborate on this point by entering the shoes of a donor, and examining the possibilities he is presented with. 
One strategy presented to whoever can and feel obligated to take responsibility, is donating rationally basing one's decisions on research. This research and evaluation based philanthropy may rightly set some philanthropists' minds at rest. Certain known problems are attached to it, at least in the short run, such as the cost of research which may devalue significantly the donation itself, or the very question of measurability, of what is measurable (think of measuring the contribution of say, Tzav Pius Project run by the Avi Chai foundation, or how to evaluate one school project among others.

Another valuable strategy involves withdrawal into the safe and conventional, the secure zone. However by doing this the philanthropist is taking upon himself assignments which all agree should be accomplished by the elected government. I suggest that the less a donation is disputable, the more it belongs in the public domain.  This type of philanthropy has become epidemic in Israel where a plethora of NGOs is taking upon themselves government obligations (the additional epidemic of the contractor's workers employed by the government to cut costs, displays a bleak scene of safe philanthropy).  Some would say that this type of philanthropy is a purveyor of hope and nothing else; others may add that it takes part in a latent privatization, or that it is channeling capable energies into wasteful assignments while enabling the government to back off its obligations toward society. All these are public knowledge and there is no need to waste too many words on them.
Then there is the eclectic strategy. Just pick something you like and nurture it, like someone who picks beautiful shells on the beach. Not trying to evaluate the benefits that may be derived from one's donation, one just picks whatever meets his eyes. The pros and cons of this strategy are clear. There is some modesty involved, and amusement which awakens one to the pleasures of giving. However, this strategy may also give rise a sense of missing something better, a nobler cause perhaps. To this objection our philanthropist may answer that excellence is the eternal enemy of the good, and that the very objection is futile. Apparently we are raising a non issue: a woman chose a husband after a long deliberation, and someone whispers in her ear that perhaps there is a better one somewhere.

One always doubts whether he has done his best. Sometimes the doubt is obsessive compulsive, at other times it requires a serious accounting. During normal times, when there are others to rely upon, even when there are no such others, choosing the eclectic form of philanthropy is easily permissible. Even in times of natural calamities, the simple love of human kind makes sense.  However, in emergencies, when society is grappling with social or security dilemmas, philanthropy may play a very important, even if not a crucial role. During such emergencies, eclectic philanthropy is insufficient. Consider for example the crucial role played by philanthropy in the foundation of the state of Israel, and it becomes clear that eclectic philanthropy then would have totally missed the target.  In emergencies the circumstances do not allow us to make do with eclectic philanthropy, society must consider philanthropy as a part of a wider set of strategies and assign it a proper role. 

The same is applicable to the other philanthropist strategies:  The evaluating and the withdrawing ones. Normally the evaluation comes only after the choice of involvement, without pretense to relevancy, and results in its improvement or in withdrawal if the outcomes are disappointing. Withdrawal into the safe zone strengthens and preserves the social order, a valuable cause no doubt, but irrelevant when society requires a new order.  

In praise of Philanthropy

The reader may have the impression that I am nostalgic for the days of classical philanthropy, when it motivated from pure humanism, and that the philanthropist would rather form his little comfort zone, as if saying, "I shall give where I please, and be contended that others will fulfill the task." My true opinion, however, is that in times of crisis, national, and even geopolitical, this humble strategy cannot satisfy a true philanthropist. I am reminded of the opinion of our sages of blessed memory, who were unequal in emphasizing the virtues of humility, but still aware of the dangers inherent in its dogmatic application in times of crisis. Their judgment in the tale of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza was this, " Rabbi Yochanan says because of  Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkolos hesitation the Temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled from the land." In our times and in Israel a true philanthropist should have a clear agenda. When the challenges are so big and complicated, when trust in the authorities is undermined, the change from benevolent to largess philanthropy requiring an agenda, is a real blessing. It becomes clear while considering such questions as Jewish identity, the main actors in this arena, the waning of the old ethos, the difficulties inherent in governing the Israeli society, etc. And it becomes  even clearer considering that matters of welfare and discrimination – which are at the heart of Philanthropy as a manifestation of love of humankind – require a political response – which is at the heart of Philanthropy as largess. 
Philanthropy as largess has serious political implications, and I am trying to evaluate its justification. Debating these implications for life and democracy in Israel is essential, and we should prepare ahead to deal with them. Largess Philanthropy devoid of self criticism, open mindedness and responsibility is nearly negligent. It may supply hope without fire or worse than this, fire devoid of hope. On the other hand equipped with knowledge of the dangers and their management, by navigating the turbulent waters of the big game, Philanthropy may benefit the citizens of Israel as it did during the foundation of the state.