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Giving while living study published by Atlantic Philanthropies

Giving while living study published by Atlantic Philanthropies

Atlantic Philanthropies, which provided hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable causes in Ireland over 35 years, has published an overview of the principle of ‘giving while living.’

In December 2016, the foundation made its final grant, bringing the total awarded throughout the world over 35 years to more than $8 billion. Atlantic will close its doors for good in 2020.

When Chuck Feeney decided over three decades ago to transfer virtually all his personal fortune to what would become The Atlantic Philanthropies, he said he was doing it out of a belief in ‘Giving While Living’ – the idea that individuals of great means should use their money to help people during their lifetimes.

In “The History of the Giving While Living Ethic,” historian Benjamin Soskis writes that Giving While Living is a more complex phenomenon than that three-word slogan  would suggest.

Soskis breaks it down into three intertwined strands, exploring the distinct historical development of each, while also highlighting the tensions that have emerged between them and between limited life philanthropy.

·       The first imperative makes a transactional and temporal demand on the donor, requiring him or her to commit money to charitable causes while still alive.

·       The second requires the active engagement of the donor in administering or overseeing the gift.

·       And the third imperative is promotional and educative—the giving must be done publicly, with an audience of other givers in mind.

Soskis shows how each of these three strands of Giving While Living flows through long-running debates about the responsibilities of wealth and through the story of Feeney’s and The Atlantic Philanthropies’ commitment to entrepreneurial giving.

The History of the Giving While Living Ethic” is published on the Atlantic website.

Watch: Secret Billionaire: the Chuck Feeney story


Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Research massive growth in giving.

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