Failed Philanthropy.

It was intriguing going through David Callahan’s book The Givers: Wealth, power, and philanthropy in a new gilded age. There has rarely been that much understanding of the failures of North American society. As president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada back in the 1970s, I could never have written so forcefully of my concerns over the direction that charitable philanthropy was taking.

In those years as volunteer president, I took the Canadian organization into   a new age as a major health agency. I started with a small philanthropy and turned it into a cause. From a total budget of $180,000 a year, I stayed until we past $10 million per year in funding. And that was well before crowd sourcing became an Internet possibility.

But let me say that Callahan’s book is heavy reading until he lets his hair down and states his concerns. Charitable funding, emotional funding or guilty-conscience funding are never the answer to societal problems. We, as fellow humans have to accept our responsibilities. If we leave things for the other guys, they will never get done.

We, all of us, need to be equally and deeply concerned about the needs of our society. I was arguing with a very capable politician a while ago because I wanted him to seek a seat at Queen’s Park in the coming election. Knowing this guy, he could be premier within the next five or six years. But he told me that the major concerns at Queen’s Park were health and education and that was where the bulk of the money went. Those issues just did not turn his crank. He will likely take the federal route next year.

He could not be more wrong. The health and education of our society are the seminal issues as we continue through the 21st century. We are in an era of innovation and progress and here is where we must meet the challenges.

And philanthropy cannot pay for these vital needs. Philanthropists might have made their money from an outrageous risk but they want their legacy to be solid and without risk. People such as Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook are nerds who have no understanding of societal needs and the future. They can waste their money as they wish and as they can but they do little good.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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