(Excerpts from a Reuters Global Markets Forum conversation)
By Michael Connor
NEW YORK, April 10 No longer content to build
hospitals and give art to museums, America's elite
philanthropists more and more often write supersized checks in
efforts to steer educational, environmental and government
policies, according to wealth tracker David Callahan.
Callahan, author of "The Givers: Wealth, Power and
Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age," told the Reuters Global
Markets Forum on Monday that the activism was a sea change
coming as a new generation of billionaires rise to prominence
and governments scramble for money.
The following are edited excerpts from the conversation:
Question: Is philanthropy a whole new thing from the days of
the Rockefellers, Ford and Carnegie, who built institutions such
Answer: Today's philanthropy is getting super-sized, as more
wealthy people turn to giving. More philanthropists are using
their giving to advance policy agendas. Increasingly,
philanthropy is one more way the wealthy exercise power in
society, in ways both good and bad.
Q: What is driving this?
A: One thing that is changing is that its power relative to
government is growing. As the public sector faces more fiscal
constraints, philanthropists are stepping forward to provide
leadership. ... It can be troubling if it diminishes the voice
of ordinary citizens.
Q: Is this changing how Americans look at philanthropists?
A: Philanthropists are still largely viewed in a positive
light, because people tend to associate giving with support of
museums, hospitals, and anti-poverty measures. I think the
public's view may change as they realize how active many donors
are in seeking to sway public policy.
Q: How will activist philanthropy shape society over the
next decade or two?
A: Philanthropy will play a growing role in U.S. society and
the rest of the world. This money will become increasingly
important as government resources are constrained. The challenge
is ensuring that philanthropy is not just one more way that
inequality manifests itself.
This interview was conducted in the Reuters Global Markets
Forum, a chat room hosted on the Eikon platform. For details,
follow this link: here
(Additional reporting By Yumna Mohammed in London; Editing by