How mega-philanthropy is changing the way we give

By November 22, 2018Grant management

Michael Bloomberg is one of the most well-known mega-philanthropist and with his most recent donations of $1.8 billion to John Hopkins University, we wanted to explore the impact of mega-philanthropy on society and potential donors.

What is mega-philanthropy?

There is no exact ‘science’ behind what a mega-philanthropist is or how to become one, but the pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s donations of a huge (or MEGA) amount to a cause. This title is therefore only usually given to the very rich and the majority of them are involved in the Giving Pledge. The Giving Pledge was formed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and is the pledge to give half (or more) of their wealth to charity. The pledge has been signed by 186 of the worlds wealthiest people, Michael Bloomberg included.

About Bloomberg’s Donation

Michael Bloomberg is the former New York mayor and potential Democratic presidential 2020 candidate, he made his money by creating his own company, Bloomberg L.P, which is well-known for its financial services, mass media, and software.

Bloomberg studied at John Hopkins University which would explain why he has donated such a huge amount to the institution. He explained, in his own words, his choices for his donations in his article in the New York Times;

“The school will be able to offer more generous levels of financial aid, replacing loans for many students with scholarship grants. It will ease the burden of debt for many graduates. And it will make the campus more socioeconomically diverse.”

This donation is truly amazing and yet there have been a few people disappointed with his philanthropy. For example, one article wrote “I don’t think this gift is necessarily harmful, it’s a wasted opportunity, for at least two reasons. One, it’s not the best way to use $1.8 billion to further the goal of increasing the number of poor and working-class Americans who can afford to attend and, more important, finish college — a more sensible framing of the cause that Bloomberg is embracing than focusing merely on the admissions process. Two, boosting college completion in the US is probably a worse use of money, from a humanitarian perspective, than some other causes Bloomberg could have chosen.” These points are valid, however, it really shows that it is impossible to please everyone…


How mega-philanthropy is affecting smaller donations

In the ‘Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the year 2017’, it was discovered that giving by tax-exempt organisations increased by 5% to reach a shocking $410.02 billion and that overall giving in the US has increased year on year for the last 4 years. However, if you look closer at the numbers it shows that this increase is due to mega-donations, with small, ‘everyday’ donations decreasing.

The gap in the USA between the richest 1% and the lower income families is growing. In 2015, the top 1% of families in the United States made more than 25 times what families in the bottom 99% did, according to a paper from the Economic Policy Institute and this gap has not improved since.

The increase in the wealth of the 1% has also made an increase in the amount that they give. With mega-philanthropy no longer being seen as donations of a $1million but of millions and even billions of dollars! For example Jeff Bezos newest donation of $2 billion to foundations that help the homeless and setting up his own foundation, the Day 1 Foundation.

Mega-philanthropy growing is a huge benefit for charities, with these life-changing amounts being donated, however, if the price to pay for this is less small donations to different causes and charities there is some work to be done. As people have pointed out with Bloombergs latest donation if it were split into hundreds of much smaller chunks, he could have had the potential to help so many other needs.

With there to be true equality in philanthropy, donations should be spilt to help as many people as possible in as many places as possible. Take a look at Michael Jackson’s giving, for example, he donated over $500 million in his lifetime and holds the record for the number of charities he donated too! Maybe we need more King of Pop/Philanthropy …

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