Felix Salmon

Philanthropy: You’re doing it wrong

Merry Christmas! Maybe it’s because of some vestigial religious undertones to this holiday, or maybe it’s because the end of the tax year is rapidly approaching, along with the urgency of maximizing your annual deductions. Either way, this is a particularly philanthropic time of year. And since I’m personally feeling very charitable right now, I’ve decided to do you all the favor of telling you that when it comes to philanthropy, you’re doing it wrong.

The problem with the Red Cross, cont.

Eduardo Porter, today, has a great column about philanthropy, explaining that although Americans place trust in charity to help those in need, that trust is largely misguided. For one thing, he points out, “most philanthropists, generous as they may be, don’t usually see replacing government services as their job.” And more generally, human services charities receive less than 12% of all US charitable giving.

The problem with the Red Cross

If you thought the official New York marathon statement about being cancelled was tone-deaf, just wait until you hear thison video, no less:

Can charitable donations offset despicable behavior?

It was quite surprising when Jed Rakoff, scourge of Wall Street, sent Rajat Gupta down for only two years on Wednesday. After all, federal sentencing guidelines suggested that Gupta should get a sentence four times longer than that. And Gupta wasn’t some small-time crook grubbing for dollars with inside information, either: he did enormous damage to the reputations of central icons of our capitalist system, like McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. But for all that, said Rakoff, he is at heart a good man:

Philanthropic donation of the day, John Paulson edition

John Paulson lives in a 28,500 square foot townhouse at 9 E 86th Street on the Upper East Side, opposite the Neue Galerie and just steps away from Central Park. He’s invested a lot into his townhouse, which hosted a big fundraiser for Mitt Romney in April. And now he’s given even more to Central Park: $100 million, to be precise. “The park is very large,” he explained to the New York Times, “and its endowment is relatively small.”

Why arts organizations love new buildings

In 2002, Richard Florida published The Rise of the Creative Class, and created a whole cottage industry of people — himself foremost among them — flying around the country and the world, telling cities how to attract creative people and thereby thrive. In truth, however, these cities didn’t need much persuading. Between 1998 and 2001, expenditure on creative-industry construction projects — theaters, museums, performing arts centers — quadrupled, from a little over $400 million per year to almost $1.8 billion. Here’s the chart, from Set in Stone, a major new research project from the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center:

Haven’t Gates and Buffett given away their billions?

The thing that struck me first about Bloomberg’s new updated-daily Billionaires Index was the fact that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are still in second and third place, respectively. Aren’t they both supposed to have given most of their money to the Gates Foundation? How can they give it all away and yet still be among the world’s richest people?

For-profits vs not-for-profits

When Mitt Romney started plugging his friend’s for-profit university as a solution to the problem of rising higher-education costs, he was surely doing well by a major campaign donor, while giving pretty bad advice to potential students: no one should enroll in an $81,000 21-month program in “video game art” if it has — as this one does — a graduation rate of just 38%.

The philanthrocapitalism debate

The Stanford Social Innovation Review is hosting a debate over philanthrocapitalism in which Kavita Ramdas, on the anti-philanthrocapitalist side, makes some very salient points.