REPORT: Gilded Giving 2020: How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy
The growing concentration of wealth and power is distorting philanthropy and imperiling our democratic institutions.
Blogging Our Great Divide
July 28, 2020
Ten years ago, in August 2010, several dozen U.S. billionaires led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett pledged to give away at least half of their wealth before their death. Many have donated considerable sums to charities and foundations since then. But as a group, these billionaires have seen their fortunes skyrocket in the decade since the so-called Giving Pledge was launched.
The wealth of the billionaire class is growing so fast, it’s simply outstripped their capacity to give it away. But in a time of acute charitable need, there’s another growing concern in the broader charitable sector: Most of these funds may end up in family foundations and donor-advised funds that could legally exist in perpetuity — without ever supporting real, on-the-ground charitable work.
Over the last two decades, charitable giving has been on a steady upward trajectory. But this growth has masked a troubling trend: Charity is becoming increasingly undemocratic, with organizations relying more on larger donations from a smaller number of wealthy donors, while receiving shrinking amounts of revenue from donors at lower-and middle-income levels.