To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.

~ Aristotle

When you have the ability to become a philanthropist, it is a big honor and an even bigger responsibility. You want to help everyone, but you also do not want to be taken advantage of. There are many questions that come to mind when donating, including:

  • How much to give?
  • When to give?
  • Which cause are you passionate about?
  • What is the process of donating?
  • Should I give to a charity or foundation?
  • Should I create a charity or foundation?

To become an astute philanthropist, it is necessary to do your research, not only on the non-profits you are interested in, but also on philanthropy itself. Below are some references that are worthy of reading.

  1. The Almanac of American Philanthropy by Karl Zinsmeister. This is the resource for donating in the U.S. Zinsmeister breaks down the stats of donating and who has done the most in philanthropy. This encompassing book provides notable donations, profiles of philanthropists, ideas on charitable assistance and much more.  
  2. Forces for Good by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McCleod Grant. If you have ever wondered the impact a non-profit had on society, this is the book for you. It’s perfect for those interested in philanthropy and/or social change, from donors to non-profit managers.
  3. The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie. The Carnegie name is synonymous with philanthropy. Andrew Carnegie was the biggest philanthropist of his era. He gave away almost 90% of his fortune to charities and foundations. The book is based on article Carnegie penned, in which he called on the rich to use their wealth for the good of society.
  4. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow. Like Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was another great philanthropist of his time. This book is a biography, which details the beginning and extent of Rockefeller’s philanthropy.
  5. Protecting Donor Intent: How to Define and Safeguard your Philanthropic Principles by Jeffery Cain. This how-to book examines the practice of donating, from donor intent to and defining your mission to choosing a board and creating safeguards.

With the large number of newly minted millionaires over the past twenty years, a new class of philanthropists has emerged (e.g. The Giving Pledge). The resources above provide invaluable guidance on making giving decisions as well as ensuring donated assets are properly distributed and secured for future generations.

Originally published at on January 24, 2019.