The Atlantic

Why More Philanthropists Are Giving Before They Die

The trend is a departure from the traditional model of donation—and could affect how large sums of money are put to use.
Source: Kay Nietfeld / Getty

Big philanthropy is having something of a moment. There is the Giving Pledge, the promise made by more than a hundred of the United States’ wealthiest citizens, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, to give the vast majority of their fortunes to charity. Then there is the related “giving while living” movement, whose best known proponent is Charles Feeney, now 86, who has given away almost the entirety of his multi-billion dollar fortune during his lifetime.

Some, though, are cautious about these donations’ ultimate effects. There’s an argument that no matter how well intentioned, the scale of the money being directed toward philanthropic efforts by the wealthiest Americans is further contributing to an unequal balance of power in society, even as the givers claim that’s exactly what they are attempting to address.

Joel Fleishman knows these issues well. The director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University (and a professor there as well), Fleishman served for more than a decade as an

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