Philanthropy Industry Note: Philanthropy by Foundations

John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard)



Case Study Sector


This series of contextual essays provides an overview of the history and status of philanthropic giving in the United States. Drawing on federal tax-based data, reports of the National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel and a wide variety of scholarly sources, the notes look broadly at overall philanthropic trends (share of national income devoted to philanthropy; major recipients of charitable donations; sources of donations) and at the giving patterns of the various sectors of the economy: individuals, corporations and foundations. Each note begins with specific conclusions (e.g. almost half of all philanthropy goes to religious institutions; the strongest predictor of giving is level of wealth; foundation giving is highly-correlated to the performance of the stock market; corporate philanthropy is increasingly a component of firms' competitive strategy) before elaborating on the conclusions and providing an extensive bibliography. Although not providing an explicit overview of the independent (nongovernmental) sector as a whole, the notes comment on the evolution of the sector and its changing reliance on private and public support. As with all industry notes, these are intended to provide a convenient overview for those interested in the field (charitable giving and its forms), as well as context for Kennedy School cases on nonprofit organizations and their management and regulation, including those developed for the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Institutions.



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