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  1. Wealth
July 22, 2010

No More Money!

By Spear's

Too much money, he says, is given to the same old places, rather than to small projects which tackle the grassroots of poverty.

Apparently, philanthropy should only be for the poor. ‘Elite’ institutions like universities and hospitals and art galleries should not receive the cash of Gates and Allen and Buffett, since this intensifies inequalities.

So speaks Pablo Eisenberg on philanthropy.com. Too much money, he says, is given to the same old places, rather than to small projects which tackle the grassroots of poverty, deprivation and social suffering:

‘They give their biggest donations almost exclusively to universities and colleges, hospitals and medical centers, and arts institutions. They rarely make large gifts to social-service groups, grass-roots organizations, or nonprofit groups that focus on the poor or minorities.’

While a blog on wsj.com pointed out that much of Gates’ money is going exactly to those lower down the financial spectrum – both in America and beyond – Eisenberg’s larger point is well taken. Large institutions are easier to find, more sophisticated in their gratitude, more prominent in communities. If you give to a tiny charity in Brixton or Harlem, who’s going to know?

That, of course, is the worst aspect of philanthropy, the desire for recognition, and the philanthropists I know do not suffer from this: they give because it is right and because they support the causes. Nevertheless, there are many whose noblesse does not oblige and, when looking at a hospital, think what it’s really missing is their name in the atrium.

But to condemn all hospital- or university-givers is not fair, since they can play as vital a role in advancing the poor as a small charity can. Hospitals (in America – over here healthcare is free) run free clinics. Universities offer generous scholarships. Art galleries are places of inspiration and creativity.

Admittedly, it’s hard to justify giving endless sums to Harvard or such, after they blew their endowments on the financial casino, but just because it’s big doesn’t mean it’s bad.

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