George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

The Fu⁠t⁠ure of Ph⁠i⁠lan⁠t⁠hropy ⁠i⁠n Flor⁠i⁠da

By: The James Madison Institute / January 14, 2010

The James Madison Institute

George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

January 14, 2010

If it’s your money, you should be allowed to spend it as you see fit, shouldn’t you?

Most Americans would agree you should have the freedom to dispose of your assets as you please. That’s the very essence of America.

If you’re feeling charitable and want to donate to the local opera house, that’s your business. If you want your money to be devoted to a particular charity or other cause, that’s your call, too. And if you want your money to be spent on specific causes after you die, that’s also your prerogative.

But activist groups beg to differ as they challenge your freedom to choose how to spend your money. They argue that they should have a say in how your money is spent. If they prevail, they would undercut the idea of voluntary philanthropy and compromise the property rights of donors.

“These groups, representing political activists and special interests, have developed a social theory to justify the claims they make on philanthropists’ money,” according to Capital Research Center President Terrence Scanlon. “According to them, philanthropy betrays its highest ideals unless it gives them grants.”

The argument for the approach Scanlon criticizes was laid out in “Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best,” a report issued in March 2009 by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). The report argues that the best philanthropy finances “advocacy” and “community organizing” groups that know how to “contextualize” issues of race, gender and class while working for social and policy changes to overcome “structural barriers” to equality. This study examines some of the issues raised by this assault on the principles undergirding philanthropy.

Read the Policy Brief here.