Philanthropy's Must-Reads

The world of philanthropy is bloated with literature advising donors on how to conduct their giving. To help them wade through the abundance of information, experts at The Philanthropy Roundtable have curated this list of essential reading for donors.

 

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Agenda Setting by John J. Miller and Karl Zinsmeister
Essential reading for any donor interested in the challenges and rewards of public policy philanthropy.

The Almanac of American Philanthropy by Karl Zinsmeister
The reference “bible” on private giving in the U.S., with sections on the great donors, the major accomplishments, the vital statistics, and the crucial ideas that animate American giving.

The Billionaire Who Wasn’t by Conor O’Clery
A biography of Charles F. (Chuck) Feeney, founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies, the largest limited-life Foundation to complete its grantmaking to date.

Forces for Good by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McCleod Grant
Six case studies of high-impact nonprofit organizations.

George Eastman: A Biography by Elizabeth Brayer
This Pulitzer Prize-nominated biography profiles the business success and vast philanthropy of the founder of Eastman Kodak, whose charities included the Eastman School of Music, MIT, and the University of Rochester, the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes, dental clinics across the globe, and other projects, many of them launched anonymously.

Give Smart by Thomas J. Tierney and Joel Fleishman
An easy-to-read guide that walks donors through the key questions to ask when making giving decisions.

Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins
A short book by the prominent management consultant in which he applies to philanthropy many of his discoveries on the factors that allow companies to perform at a high level.

The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie
Carnegie’s oft-cited essay contains an impassioned plea to the wealthy to give their money away while they are still able to guide its use.

Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced Black Education in the American South by Peter Ascoli
Biography of the man who befriended Booker T. Washington and built 5,000 schoolhouses for African-American children who would otherwise have grown up in ignorance in the first half of the twentieth century.

Philanthrocapitalism by Matthew Bishop & Michael Green
Examines the “venture investing” movement, which combines for-profit techniques with nonprofit goals. It includes interviews with a host of wealthy, motivated investors like Bill Gates, Ted Turner, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and others.

Protecting Donor Intent: How to Define and Safeguard Your Philanthropic Principles by Jeffrey Cain
Examines practical aspects of making sure a foundation stays true to the principles and interests of the donor, even after he or she passes from the scene.

Reclaiming the American Dream by Richard Cornuelle
This groundbreaking 1965 work revived the idea, at a time of rising centralism, that individuals and communities can often solve their problems more effectively than government bureaucracies.

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
A highly readable, comprehensive, and fair biography of one of America’s first moguls and most influential large-scale philanthropists.

Who Really Cares? Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why it Matters by Arthur Brooks
We all know we should give to charity, but who actually does, and why? A policy expert uncovers the surprising associations among family structure, faith, political views, and giving.

 

Has a book not listed here been indispensable to your giving? Let us know at MarCom@PhilanthropyRoundtable.org.