Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy

Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy

Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy

Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy


So long as large segments of humanity are suffering chronic poverty and are dying from treatable diseases, organized giving can save or enhance millions of lives. With the law providing little guidance, ethics has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the philanthropic practices of individuals, foundations, NGOs, governments, and international agencies are morally sound and effective. In Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy, an accomplished trio of editors bring together an international group of distinguished philosophers, social scientists, lawyers and practitioners to identify and address the most urgent moral questions arising today in the practice of philanthropy. The topics discussed include the psychology of giving, the reasons for and against a duty to give, the accountability of NGOs and foundations, the questionable marketing practices of some NGOs, the moral priorities that should inform NGO decisions about how to target and design their projects, the good and bad effects of aid, and the charitable tax deduction along with the water's edge policy now limiting its reach. This ground-breaking volume can help bring our practice of charity closer to meeting the vital needs of the millions worldwide who depend on voluntary contributions for their very lives.


Patricia Illingworth, Thomas Pogge, and Leif Wenar

To give away money is an easy matter and in any man's power.
But to decide to whom to give it, and how large, and when, and
for what purpose and how, is neither in every man's power nor
an easy matter.


Philanthropy—the “love of humanity”—has surged into public view. the spectacular sums given by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates captured headlines, as did the high-profile charitable campaigns by George Soros, Ted Turner, and Oprah Winfrey. the rocketing wealth of the richest (since 2006, the Forbes 400 list has contained only billionaires, with a total worth of more than $1.5 trillion in 2008) has clashed sharply with the widening inequalities among compatriots (the richest 1% of Americans captured 50% of the real per-capita growth of the U.S. economy between 1993 and 2007). Simultaneously, globalization and the spread of information technology have spotlighted the massive disparities of wealth between the affluent countries and the nearly half of humanity that lives on, at most, $2.50 (2005 international dollars) a day. in our world today, every 3 seconds a child dies from poverty-related causes, and many have asked whether rich and even ordinary citizens of affluent countries should do more. the heightened attention to the urgency of unfulfilled human needs has spurred the “New Philanthropy,” more focused on giving that is targeted and effective than on giving that merely salves the conscience or advertises the donor's name.

Yet despite the recent attention on philanthropy, there is little consensus on how to answer the basic ethical questions it raises. For example, during their lives, Americans give 60% of their charitable donations to religious organizations and only 2% to international aid, whereas the British give 14% of their donations to international aid and only 8% to religious organizations. Americans give more than twice as much to charity than Canadians do, and 10 times more than do the French.

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