Hello once again to this dollop of Friday thought-provocation and fun. And there certainly are some cracking reads this week.
As you can see, by clever subdivision I have actually managed to give you seven stories whilst still maintaining my rigid pentalogical structure, so you get even more bang for your buck. And by “buck”, I obviously mean “click”.
1) First up is a trio of philanthropy stories from The Atlantic:
- This article argued that it is important to criticise philanthropy. Taking as its starting point an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy by billionaire former Enron trader John Arnold (“Attacks and vitriol will not deter me from supporting fixes to public policy“), the piece puts forward a case that we must continue to question big money philanthropy in order to avoid the risk of subversion of the democratic process. What I found particularly interesting is the historical perspective: as the article points out, this sort of critical appraisal is nothing new. When JD Rockefeller was establishing his foundation he was met with a lot of scepticism and mistrust, and philanthropy was regarded with such suspicion at the turn of the last century that a New Orleans newspaper dubbed it the “recognizable mark of a wicked man”!
- On a similar theme was this article asking what the recent visit of young billionaire philanthropists to the White House tell us about the power relationship between the president and wealthy donors.
- And also, there was a detailed critical analysis of the why the Gates/Buffett Giving Pledge has struggled to gain traction with wealthy individuals outside the US.
2) At number two is a shoe-based corporate philanthropy story (not another one, I hear you say…), with this Forbes profile of the employee volunteering programme runs by skate shoe manufacturer Vans. As someone who almost exclusively wore Vans during my teenage years, as I tried to pretend that life in a South Wales market town was somehow comparable to being part of a punk band in Southern California, I’m pleased to hear that Vans seems to have such a well thought-out skilled volunteering approach!
3) At 3 is an article from Inside Philanthropy which lays bare the fact that the philanthropy of disgraced LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling appears to have been a lot less substantive than his claims made it seem. It certainly makes the question of whether bad money can be put to good use less difficult to answer in this case, as it doesn’t even seem as though much good was being done with it…
4) For fans of charitable giving data, it’s worth checking out this article from stats guru Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight blog, which examines recently released figures from a iGallup poll of charitable giving across all 50 US states. Obviously the article is US-centric, but the key point of the analysis is the extent to which survey-based research on charitable giving – which relies on self-reporting – actually correlates with the real amounts given. And this is a relevant concern for almost anyone trying to come up with robust data in this area.
5) And finally… Upping the ante in terms of “things found in purchases from charity shops” is this story about a group of flatmates in the US who bought a sofa from a charity shop and found $41,000 stuffed in the cushions. I have yet to find any money in any of the copies of the Da Vinci Code I have rifled through, but watch this space…