Karl Zinsmeister

Karl Zinsmeister directs an energetic publishing program at The Philanthropy Roundtable in Washington, D.C., including serving as editor in chief of Philanthropy magazine. He also writes elsewhere and speaks on a wide range of topics related to private giving, societal problem solving, culture reform, voluntary action and national success. He has written or edited 14 books for the Roundtable, including The Almanac of American Philanthropy, his authoritative 1,342-page reference on America's powerful tradition of private giving. Other recent books include a study of charter schools, a look at the relationship between philanthropy and public policy, two volumes on the status of veterans, and an illustrated guide to how Americans have improved their society even during periods of government gridlock. Zinsmeister created the "Sweet Charity" podcast (5-10 minute stories about remarkable achievements in giving), available at the Apple Store or SweetCharityPodcast.com. He also founded and advises the Roundtable’s program on philanthropy for veterans and military servicemembers. Karl has written extensively throughout his career, including two previous books of embedded reporting on the Iraq war, an historical novel, a storytelling cookbook, even a graphic novel published by Marvel Comics. He has also made a PBS feature film, and written hundreds of articles for publications ranging from The Atlantic to RealClearPolitics to the Wall Street Journal (where he is a regular contributor). Earlier in his career he was a Senate aide to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the J. B. Fuqua Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and editor in chief for 13 years of The American Enterprise, a national magazine covering politics, business, and culture. From 2006 to 2009 Karl served in the West Wing as the President's chief domestic policy adviser and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. He is a graduate of Yale University and also studied at Trinity College Dublin. 

Selected publications by Karl Zinsmeister:
Invite the Author

The Philanthropy Roundtable’s Karl Zinsmeister (former White House domestic policy adviser) delivers scores of intriguing talks every year on America’s bursting, bubbling practice of philanthropy. 

Karl points out how charitable giving touches far more sectors of society than is commonly realized. He profiles philanthropy’s fascinating record in reforming culture, and tells gripping stories about some of philanthropy’s greatest achievements and greatest donors. He traces philanthropy’s connections to religion, to business success, to different geographic regions, to particular kinds of citizens. 

Karl explains how unusual philanthropy is in the U.S. compared to other nations, and contrasts charitable and voluntary action with government action. Audiences are often surprised by his facts on small givers vs. major givers, and fascinated by his tales of how philanthropy upends fields like science and medical research, education reform, and nature conservation. He brings to life the major statistics on giving, and is able to explain the roles of anonymity, privacy, passion, and individual vision in donating.

Karl’s most acclaimed speech is his lively half-hour summary of highlights and lessons from The Almanac of American Philanthropy—his creation which has rapidly become the “bible” of this field. He sketches the unappreciated scope of charitable giving, and argues that without it, there would be no America as we know it. Private action to solve public problems is one of the practices that most distinguishes the U.S. from other countries, and it plays a crucial role in keeping our communities healthy and our economy burgeoning. 

All of these presentations include rich photography, captivating biographies, and fresh, powerful arguments. To schedule a talk by Karl on philanthropy, civil society, and voluntary action in America, email Ashley May at amay@PhilanthropyRoundtable.org.