May 19, 2005
by Dialogues on Civic Philanthropy
For what and to whom should philanthropy be responsible?
May 19, 2005
5:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Northwest Area Foundation
St. Paul, MN
On May 19, 2005, twenty-one researchers, program officers, foundation and non-profit leaders, trustees, donors, and grantees gathered in at the Northwest Area Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota to discuss the question of accountability: For what and to whom should philanthropy be responsible?
Click here to download a transcript of this discussion (PDF format, 35 pages, 304 KB), including a participant list.
Background Comments and Questions
Everyone today seems to agree that philanthropy should be more accountable and responsive to authority. As one observer put it, “it is time to put the response back into responsibility.” But it is far from self-evident to which authority philanthropy should respond. Who should be the arbiter, for example, of what is—and what is not—in the “public good”? Likewise, everyone seems to agree that grantors as well as grantees ought to explain what they are doing and why. But it is again far from self-evident what sort of account is warranted, as well as to whom it should be addressed. Are they, for example, accountable to each other? To results? To their community?
These matters become especially urgent (and far more complicated) if we look beyond the ethics of managerial conduct to consider also the purposes and contents of grants, or more generally, to the interests and goals of philanthropists. For however valuable transparency might be, one must still wonder whether the activities of philanthropy can be made transparent without jeopardizing the very freedom that foundations treasure. One must wonder what sort of account-giving might justify the civic privileges that philanthropy enjoys. For what and to whom should philanthropy be responsible?
1. “Legitmacy in Philanthropy” by Peter Frumkin
2. “Accountability: For What and To Whom Should Philanthropy Be Responsible” by Reatha Clark King
3. “True Charity” by Fr. Robert A. Sirico
4. “Philanthropic Accountability
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