Survey of changing patterns of and avenues for big-ticket charitable giving, with American generosity finding ever more effective vehicles for distribution.
“Both donors and recipients of charitable dollars in this century are now much more able to achieve results more intelligently, more purposefully, more creatively, more knowledgeably, and more effectively,” writes Fleishman (Law and Public Policy/Duke Univ.; The Foundation: A Great American Secret: How Private Wealth Is Changing the World, 2007, etc.). This is in some measure because of innovations in directed giving, including an emphasis on “giving while living”—in other words, not waiting until the donor is dead to distribute a fortune but instead heeding Andrew Carnegie’s dictum that all billionaires should die penniless. One reason for that, writes the author, is that family trusts tend to fall apart in squabbles and rancor, while “family members have lost interest in devoting their limited time and energy to distributing wisely a limited quantity of charitable resources.” Writing diplomatically, even gingerly at times, Fleishman looks at apparent successes and failures in charitable giving, including the astonishing bequest, in 2002, of $100 million to Poetry Magazine, “which was thereby transformed into the Poetry Foundation” and which in fact received closer to $200 million when the pledge was honored. Has the state of poetry improved accordingly? That would seem to merit an argument, but for the author’s purposes, the case is notable in its rarity, since so few donors give to poetry and the arts relative to other ends. One such end, especially useful these days, is the realm in which civility and improved politics lie. Fleishman urges, without naming names, that our society “has an absolutely desperate need…for men and women of all ethnic, gender, racial, and religious backgrounds who are animated by ethical and moral norms that guide their behavior in all things.”
Targeted both to donors with a desire to establish foundations and to development specialists, Fleishman’s book also offers useful tips for fund-seekers.