Philanthropy to the Rescue? Exploring the opportunities, strengths and challenges of philanthropy

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Management


There is a renewed global interest in philanthropy. While philanthropy, the use of private resources for public benefit and change, has a very long history, the last few years have seen marked changes in our expectations of philanthropy and in the way in which philanthropy is conducted, perceived and judged. For example, faced with declining budgets and complex social problems, governments are turning to large charitable foundations and wealthy donors in the hope that these can come to the aid of the welfare state and assist in the design, provision and funding of public services. The extent to which such and related expectations of philanthropy are realistic is questionable and has seen limited critical debate. Furthermore, the knowledge-base regarding philanthropy is only slowly starting to emerge. While some significant work has taken place in different academic disciplines and within different professional contexts, there has been limited knowledge-exchange and bridging across academic and non-academic debates.

Focusing on the changing relationship between charitable foundations and wealthy individuals on the one hand, and on government and society on the other, our seminar series will bring together experts from academia, philanthropy and policy to: discuss and synthesise existing knowledge; develop theories and practices that help academic and non-academic audiences; reflect on barriers and challenges to philanthropy research; explore how we can improve research approaches and practices; strengthen the evidence-base and knowledge-sharing on philanthropy for informed policymaking and practice; identify key questions that need to be researched in the future; and jointly work together on developing a better understanding of philanthropy. Furthermore, by directly involving early career academics, PhD students and young talents of foundation staff in the design, delivery and publicity of the seminar series and its outputs, we will help to build a future generation of academics and non-academics that will work together and understand and appreciate their respective working contexts.

To make sure that our seminars and findings are widely available, accessible and appropriate for different audiences, we will provide a selection of live-streamings, seminar recordings, short briefing papers, academic papers, and social media outputs. To be cost effective and guarantee that we can reach as big an audience as possible, we will use existing and established webpages (such as, Twitter accounts (for example, @CassCCE), and links to professional and academic networks and membership organisations (like the Voluntary Sector Studies Network, the International Society for Third Sector Research, and the European Foundation Centre).

Planned Impact

The seminar series (a) supports and promotes increasing understanding of philanthropy and philanthropic action within the changing nexus of state, citizens and society; (b) strengthens the academic, practice and policy evidence-base on philanthropy; and (c) builds K* activities, research knowledge, and research co-production across academic and non-academic stakeholders in and researchers on philanthropy. The series has three clusters of main beneficiaries:

Seminar participants - established and early career academics/PhD students, philanthropists, representatives of charitable foundations and policymakers will benefit directly, through: immediate involvement in shaping, running and contributing to the seminars; co-producing and developing a synthesised and more informed knowledge-base on philanthropy research and practice; gaining experience and developing skills in shared knowledge-production; expanding their professional networks to bridge academic, policy and practice divides; shaping a research agenda on philanthropy that is relevant to academics and practitioners alike; gaining a more informed and nuanced understanding of academic/practice/policy work contexts; offering a forum for ongoing knowledge-exchange; and, building partnerships for future collaborations and research co-production.

Academic and non-academic researchers - the series provides an interdisciplinary pooling, synthesis and development of the knowledge-base on philanthropy and discusses methodological challenges associated with philanthropy research and how these can be overcome. It thereby helps to build an increasingly informed and stronger foundation for philanthropy research at national and international level and advances the field empirically, conceptually and methodologically. As outlined in the Pathways to Impact, the applicants will disseminate their work through key academic and non-academic research networks and use both traditional academic outputs - such as briefing papers, journal articles and conference discussion - as well as online and social media. Direct links will be examined between the series and pedagogical developments in university philanthropy programmes' curriculum content and direction in European and international contexts, both through individual programme leaders and internationally through the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC).

Policymakers/practitioners - the applicants will use the outputs from the series to inform and provide a current and comprehensive knowledge-base to those within UK local and national governments and public service providing organisations who work with and are interested in philanthropy; for foundations and philanthropists who are interested in ensuring that their work is as effective and impactful as possible, the series and its outputs will help them to reflect and inform their practices, approaches and outcomes. Of the numerous United Kingdom trusts and foundations, most are networked through membership bodies (including the Association of Charitable Foundations, Community Foundations UK, the Association of Charitable Organisations ('benevolent societies'), or looser organisations such as the Scottish Grantmakers' Forum) to whom the findings will be provided and with whom the applicants will enter into a dialogue about effective dissemination to their members so as to inform philanthropic practices and processes. Similarly, the applicants will engage with international umbrella bodies, including The Funders' Network and the European Foundation Centre, to encourage knowledge-exchange and dissemination of findings.


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Description While social, political and economic interest in philanthropy has increased substantially over the last decade, developments in practice, policy and scholarship have largely taken place in silos of activities and within defined disciplinary and professional settings. Aimed at providing opportunities for knowledge exchange and reaching across academic and non-academic boundaries, this series had three overarching objectives:
(1) to develop a UK network of academic and non-academic stakeholders interested in engaged, interdisciplinary and collaborative scholarship on philanthropy;
(2) to build philanthropy theory, practice and research methodology; and
(3) to grow future thought leaders on philanthropy.

Over the course of the series' six seminars (London, Dublin, Nottingham, Glasgow, St Andrews, London) which brought together a total of 180 UK and international participants from academia, philanthropy and policy, the series has provided a diversity of insights. Firstly, as reported in the December 2016 edition of the Association of Charitable Foundations' "Trust & Foundation News" (pp.52-3), the seminars have shown the potential for engaged and meaningful debates across academic and non-academic stakeholders interested in philanthropy. Secondly, the series has reiterated the relatively emergent nature of philanthropy scholarship and the need for more robust knowledge and evidence. Prominent areas for future exploration relate to: professionalism in and the professionalisation of philanthropy; alternative, more inclusive and collaborative approaches to philanthropy; the contribution of philanthropy to public good; faith giving; and lessons from international contexts. Thirdly, a number of areas for future development were identified. These include the need for safe spaces for discussion, reflective exchanges and learning that both challenges and supports philanthropy, and the provision of curated, synthesised and accessible philanthropy knowledge.

Building on this, and further advancing the series' objectives, a number of significant new initiatives have been developed that correlate to the original three objectives:
Re (1) The series has driven and been an important catalyst for setting up Scotland's first research centre dedicated to the growing field of philanthropy studies, the Centre for the Study of Philanthropy & Public Good. Based at the University of St Andrews, the Centre's aim is to strengthen, enhance and challenge theory, practice and policy relating to philanthropy and its relationship to public good through high-quality, internationally recognised engaged research and scholarship. For further information on this, please see .
Re (2) The seminars have provided the basis for a new international and interdisciplinary book series on 'Global Perspectives on Philanthropy and Public Good', commissioned by the University of Bristol's Policy Press. Details on this can be found at .
Re (3) The series has led to a number of off-spring engagement activities, including a 'Let's talk about' conversation series at the University of St Andrews' School of Management, and the setting up of the Annual Scottish Philanthropy Inovation and Research Exchange (ASPIRE) (see ) aimed at building, growing and strengthening expertise and research engagement in the field.
Exploitation Route As illustrated in the key findings section, the seminar series' aims, objectives and insights are already being progressed through various avenues, including: the establishment and work of a new research centre on philanthropy; a newly commissioned major international and interdisciplinary book series on philanthropy; and a series of follow-on engagement activities.

The knowledge and practice gaps identified by the series in general provide a strong basis for future work. Of these, the areas of professionalism and professionalisation of philanthropy, as well as engaged, inclusive and collaborative approaches to philanthropy, are now being pursued as research projects. Others, especially questions around faith giving, international insights, and public understanding of philanthropy, are currently being discussed with stakeholders from the philanthropy field and are envisaged to result in future research collaborations. To build on the series and to develop wider public engagement with philanthropy, we have also submitted a funding application to the University of St Andrews' Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund for a new online knowledge portal on philanthropy.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

Description As reported in 2017, the series has contributed to the establishment of a new research centre on philanthropy at the University of St Andrews and to the setting up of a major new international and interdisciplinary book series (please see Furthermore, the Series' events have started to influence discussions beyond academic audiences (see for example the December 2016 edition of Trust & Foundation News, pp52-53, also available at ). Most importantly, to date, the series has opened up new opportunities for wider engagement and conversations, including with the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, the European Community Foundation Initiative, the Association of Charitable Foundations, as well as providing an impetus for the centre's new Annual Philanthropy Talk series that started in autumn 2017 (please see and a new knowledge-exchange and impact project on 'How Philanthropy shapes Scotland: an online story map' (please see
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description How Philanthropy shapes Scotland: an online story map
Amount £9,397 (GBP)
Organisation University of St Andrews 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2018
Description Philanthropy today? Philanthropy tomorrow? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Reflecting on contemporary philanthropy and the opportunities and challenges ahead. Two-day seminar with 30 participants. Centre for the Study of Philanthropy & Public Good, University of St Andrews. This seminar reflected on the state of contemporary philanthropy and the future paths, challenges and opportunities for philanthropy practice, thinking and research, and avenues for collaboration across academia and practice.
Speakers included:
Beth Breeze, Director, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent;
Caroline Broadhurst, Deputy Chief Executive, The Rank Foundation;
Robert Dufton, Director of Campaigns, Sheffield University and former Director Paul Hamlyn Foundation;
Robert Fleming, Commissioner, Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Commission for Philanthropy;
Jenny Harrow, Co-Director, Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, Cass Business School, City University;
Tobias Jung, Director, The Centre for the Study of Philanthropy & Public Good;
Barry Knight, Adviser, Global Fund for Community Foundations;
Diana Leat, Visiting Professor, Cass Business School and the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, and former Board Member of The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Trust;
Yunus Sola, Director, Academy of Philanthropy;
Marie-Luise Stoll Steffan, Co-chair, Community Foundations Working Group and Regional Coordinator, Association of Community Foundations, Berlin;
Rupert Count Strachwitz, Director, Maecenata Institute, Germany;
Susan Wilkinson Maposa, Author of 'The Poor Philanthropist: how and why the poor help each other', and former Director, Building Community Philanthropy Programme, Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Philanthropy: tainted? Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Exploring the 'dark side' of philanthropy. Seminar with 60 participants from academia and practice.
3rd December 2015 - CGAP, Cass Business School City University London

In common with all human activity, philanthropy has a 'dark side'. Bringing together academics with practitioners and stakeholders from the philanthropy world, the seminar discussed issues around:
- trust and distrust in philanthropy;
- the dark sides of NGOs and of volunteering;
- problems within philanthropy systems;
- disinvestment;
- foundation giving.

Speakers included:
Tom Davies, Senior Lecturer in International Politics, School of Arts and Social Sciences, City University London;
Michele Fugiel Gartner, Former Director, Strategic Investments and Evaluation, The Trico Foundation, Calgary;
Jenny Harrow, Co-Director, Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy;
Professor Cathy Pharoah, Co-Director, Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy;
Rosalind Searle, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Psychology, Coventry University Business School;
Jo Sylvester, Professor of Psychology, Faculty of Management, Cass Business School;
Anthony Tomei, Trustee, Association of Charitable Foundations, former Director, Nuffield Foundation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Philanthropy: tight? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Exploring the practical challenges of philanthropy. Seminar with 30 participants at Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, 7th September 2016.
Philanthropy's practical challenges formed the basis for this seminar which looked at: disincentives for giving and practical obstacles for individuals interested in philanthropy, questions of allocating and rationing limited philanthropic resources faced by those active in the area, and the inbuilt fragility of philanthropy and its resource bases.
Speakers included:
Fiona Duncan, Chief Executive Lloyds TSB Foundation;
Martin Gannon, Doctoral Candidate, University of Strathclyde;
Jillian Gordon, University of Glasgow;
Douglas Hamilton, Director RS MacDonald Trust;
Angus Nelson, Head of Fundraising Oxfam Scotland;
Eleanor Shaw, Vice-Dean and Director of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Philanthropy: together? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact London and beyond: using philanthropy to bridge cultures and build stronger communities. 19th January, Cass Business School City University London. Organised in collaboration with the Academy of Philanthropy and the Global Donors Forum, this roundtable discussion with 35 national and international stakeholders in philanthropy focused on ways in which philanthropy can overcome cultural barriers and act as leverage for building and strengthening communities. Speakers included:
Cllr Saima Ashraf, Councillor, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham;
Dr Tariq Cheema, Philanthropist and President of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists;
Mark Fisher, Director, Office for Civil Society and Innovation, Cabinet Office;
Dr Yunus Sola, Director, Academy of Philanthropy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Philanthropy: transformative? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Exploring the role of philanthropy as catalyst for social change. Seminar with 21 participants from academia and practice. 16th May 2016 - University of Nottingham Business School.
Promises of transformation and change are integral to philanthropic organisations. However, the extent to which philanthropy can encourage and realise significant innovations is widely debated. This seminar critically debated the impact and successes of philanthropy and explored how we can develop better knowledge-sharing and learning across the field.

Speakers included: Dr. John Harvey, Assis. Professor, Nottingham Trent University;
Dr Sally Hibbert, Assoc. Professor, University of Nottingham;
Dr. Tobias Jung, Reader, University of St. Andrews;
Dr. Ekkehard Thuemler, Joachim Herz Stiftung Foundation, Germany;
Peter West, Founder and former Director, Bemore;
Rob Williamson, Chief Executive, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland Community Foundation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Philanthropy: tribunal? Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Seminar 2 - Philanthropy: tribunal?

Exploring philanthropy's role and influence in agenda setting and policy making

7th March 2016 - Trinity College Dublin

Despite philanthropists' and philanthropic foundations' increasing engagement in policy making, advocacy and agenda setting, our understanding of this area is scant. This seminar discussed policy involvement of philanthropy at various levels.

Speakers included:
- Gemma Donnelly Cox and Dr John A. Healy, Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin;
- Fiona Keogh, Director of Research and Evidence: The GENIO Trust;
- Agnes Kover, Professor of Law and Sociology, ELTE University, Budapest, Hungary;
- Nick Acheson/Avila Kilmurray, Director of Policy and Strategy, Global Fund for Community Foundations;
- Susan Phillips, School of Public Policy and Adninistration Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016