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The Philanthropy Reader

With an international and interdisciplinary focus, The Philanthropy Reader serves as a one-stop resource that brings together essential and engaging extracts from key texts and major thinkers, and frames these in a way that captures the historical development, core concepts, perennial debates, global reach, and recent trends of this field.

Philanthropy is both timeless and timely. Ancient Romans, Medieval aristocrats, and Victorian industrialists engaged in philanthropy, as do modern-day Chinese billionaires, South African activists, and Brazilian nuns.

Today, philanthropic practice is evolving faster than ever before, with donors giving their time, talents, and social capital in creative new ways and in combination with their financial resources. These developments are generating complex new debates and adding new twists to enduring questions, from “why be philanthropic?” to “what does it mean to do philanthropy ‘better’?” Addressing such questions requires greater understanding of the contested purpose and diverse practice of philanthropy.

The book includes almost 100 seminal and illuminating writings about philanthropy, equipping readers with the guiding material they need to better grasp such a crucial yet complex and evolving topic. A companion website offers resources such as additional readings and discussion questions.

Michael Moody is Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. He is co-author of Understanding Philanthropy: Its Meaning and Mission and writes and speaks about philanthropy, donors, and giving to both scholarly and practitioner audiences.

Beth Breeze worked as a fundraiser and charity manager before founding the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, where she now conducts research and teaching on philanthropy and fundraising. She produces the annual Million Pound Donor Report and co-authored Richer Lives: why rich people give.


‘This reader is the number one address for anyone who wants to get familiar with the study of philanthropy. The editors have compiled the most comprehensive and systematic collection of major contributions to date – highly recommended to practitioners, students and scholars.’
Professor Helmut Anheier, Dean, Hertie School of Governance, Germany

‘As an accessible and concise collection of key texts on “elite philanthropy” offering global insights into monetary giving by donors and institutions, this reader is an invaluable and timely reference point for scholars on the African continent as “African philanthropy” and “philanthropy in Africa” is on the horizon as a multidisciplinary field of study at the university level.’
– Susan Wilkinson-Maposa, University of Cape Town, South Africa and author of The Poor philanthropist: how and why the poor help each other

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