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As the giving season begins, where is philanthropy headed?

We’re kicking off a weeklong series on some of the questions facing the world of philanthropy as money in the industry gets bigger, and the problems more dire.

As the giving season begins, where is philanthropy headed?
[Photos: NASA/Apollo 17 crew/Wikiemedia Commons; United States Mint/Wikimedia Commons]

As the holiday season commences, it’s a time when people begin to think about their giving. And give they will: Giving Tuesday, conceived as an antidote to the consumerism of Black Friday, helped generate $380 million in one day in 2018 (and more than a billion dollars in total giving). This year’s installment, on December 3, will likely beat that number. The intense political atmosphere has also created a rise in giving, as people feel pushed to support causes they feel are under threat. And the rise of crowdfunding platforms means that a more personal form of philanthropy—helping someone with medical bills or an unexpected expense—is just a click away.

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In this moment of philanthropic thinking, we’re trying to ask a few deeper questions about the ecosystem that has been built around the act of giving. What does it mean when philanthropy is just stopping harm, but not actually solving problems? Has corporate giving become so much of a marketing gimmick that it undermines the intention? Is our polarized world making it difficult for people to take a public stand?

On November 20, you can read about how food banks are starting to do more than simply mitigate hunger, but rather fight the source of hunger: poverty. The one problem? A big cause of poverty is the low wages paid by supermarkets—which are food banks’ biggest source of donations.

On November 21, read about what it means that corporate philanthropy is starting to take the form of marketing stunts. When Domino’s creates an ad campaign to offer to pave roads to make deliveries smoother, who is actually benefitting?

On November 22, we’ll look at how celebrities are having a harder and harder time lending their name to causes, as every cause becomes politicized.

On November 25, we’ll examine the new trend of “flash funding,” when a corporate donation funds a huge group of crowdfunding campaigns at once. What does it mean for the future of crowdfunding—and the projects left behind?

The United States is the most charitable country, per capita, in the world. It’s clear there’s an ever-growing amount of money sloshing around—both from individuals and corporations—that people want to direct to solving problems and helping others. How can we use it in the smartest way?

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About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Impact section, formerly FastCoExist.com. Have an idea for a story? You can reach him at mclendaniel [at] fastcompany.com

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