The Business of Giving
By Peter Grant
£24.30 from Amazon
As the author says upfront: “Unlike some books about philanthropy, it will not tell you what field or what type of organisation to fund… What it will do is tell you how best to fund it once you’ve made that choice”.
Grant’s central premise is that philanthropy (or ‘social investment’ as it is often termed within the text), “is a process-related business that can be analysed like any other”. He argues that the contemporary philanthropy sector is overly focused on helping donors to develop a philanthropic strategy (for example choosing which areas to fund) at the expense of helping funders to operationalise that strategy. Yet having a robust philanthropic process in place to guide the implementation of giving decisions is described as ‘essential’ in order to achieve social change and to ensure “the maximum impact at the minimum cost to the funders' resources".
Grant knows of what he writes. He spent 20 years helping to allocate over £5bn of philanthropic funding, largely in his time working for the grantmaking arm of the UK’s National Lottery, and he continues to advise foundations and lead a unique Masters course on grantmaking at Cass Business School in London. Whilst this is an undeniably impressive career that ensures authorial credibility, it does influence the book’s focus, which is largely about formal philanthropic institutions (i.e. professional charitable trusts and foundations) rather than informal, personal philanthropic giving. As such it may be of greater value to foundation staff rather than individual philanthropists. That said, all inhabitants of Planet Philanthropy will find much useful food for thought, as Grant offers interesting riffs on a number of pressing questions, such as whether there is anything new about ‘new’ or ‘venture’ philanthropy.
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