United States of Givers
PHILANTHROPY IN AMERICA:
By Olivier Zunz.
Princeton Univ. Press. 381 pp. $29.95
Despite the sluggish economy, Americans gave a staggering $290 billion to charity in 2010. There is no shortage of causes clamoring for our attention—and our dollars. Philanthropic drives and organizations are woven into the fabric of American life. In Philanthropy in America, Olivier Zunz, a historian at the University of Virginia, has written a lucid and engaging story of how this came to be. He focuses on the 20th century, when Americans transformed their prolific, but mostly localized, efforts to form groups for addressing all manner of problems into philanthropy on a much larger scale, measured not only in the amount of money and numbers of people involved, but also in the scope of what such enterprises tried to achieve. American democracy has been “enlarged,” Zunz writes, by this “convergence of big-money philanthropy and mass giving.” The question is whether 21st-century philanthropy can withstand the growing chorus of criticism that has resulted.
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Suzanne Garment is a visiting scholar at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. Leslie Lenkowsky is a professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at Indiana University. They are coauthoring a book on philanthropy and public policy.more from this author >>