Center Events

A Matter of Balance: Managing the Tension Between Philanthropy and Democracy

A partnership program with Saint Anselm College Center for Ethics in Business and Governance  

Center for Ethics in Business and Governance

Since its origins at the turn of the last century, modern philanthropy has been celebrated as an expression of democracy and attacked as a threat to democracy. The tension between these two attitudes has long fueled public debate over philanthropic giving in the United States.  Join the discussion as we situate the contemporary iteration of that debate in a broader historical context, exploring the ethical and moral aspects of recent trends in philanthropy and charitable giving and their impact on public policy. 

  • What are the civic consequences of a shrinking donor base and a concentration of charitable giving amongst high net worth individuals? Why should we care about promoting a participatory culture of giving?
  • Where does private philanthropy derive its moral and political legitimacy in a democracy? How will our public policy balance private initiatives versus the public good?
  • Who should decide if money is "tainted" and what are the consequences of that determination?
"Unless all men and all classes contribute to a good,” Jane Addams wrote in Democracy and Social Ethics, “we cannot even be sure that it is worth having."

About the Presenter

Benjamin Soskis, Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute

Benjamin Soskis is a research associate in the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. His work explores the ways in which historical inquiry can inform contemporary philanthropic practice. He is especially interested in the relationship between philanthropy and democratic norms and institutions.

A historian and journalist, Soskis is the coeditor of HistPhil, a web publication devoted to the history of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Previously, he was a fellow at the Center for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Policy at George Mason University. He is also a consultant for the Open Philanthropy Project and a frequent contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. His writing on philanthropy has also appeared in the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Guardian, New Yorker online, Stanford Social Innovation Review, American Prospect, and Boston Review. He is coauthor of The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song that Marches On, which was a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, coauthor of Looking Back at 50 Years of US Philanthropy (Hewlett Foundation, 2016), and author of The History of the Giving While Living Ethic (The Atlantic Philanthropies, 2017). Soskis has taught at the George Washington University and the University of California, Washington Center. He received his PhD in American history from Columbia University.

Read more here.

Funding for the Ethics in Governance Forum comes from a $2 million endowment created by the N.H. Secretary of State’s Office and the Center for Public Responsibility and Corporate Citizenship awarded to Saint Anselm College in 2013. The endowment was created from a settlement reached between the New Hampshire Securities Bureau and Tyco International, LTD in 2002 and is administered by the University of New Hampshire Foundation. 
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - 3:00pm to 5:00 pm
Location: Saint Anselm College NH Institute of Politics , Goffstown
Fees: $10

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