GCPI logo

American Philanthropy Literature Review

GCPI Working Paper 2: Wong, Karna; Ong, Paul; Zheng, Wenjuan (2014-2016).


Most cultures have a concept of philanthropy: to care for or help others in need by donating money or time. Philanthropy can create social change and is influenced by family, religion, government, and the market. This literature review explores the relationship among philanthropy, charity, and civil society. We examine philanthropy in the United States based on existing literature, published reports, and secondary statistics. This working paper is one of three literature reviews. For a broader overview, the reader can consult the other two literature reviews for information on (1) philanthropy in China and (2) comparing philanthropy in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The first part of the paper is a brief history of philanthropy in the United States, followed by a discussion of civil society organizations (CSOs) and the role of government. The second part delineates a broad range of donors, volunteers, and recipients. Part 3 examines factors that influence philanthropic engagement, drawing on studies from social science disciplines. Foundations fund programs and policies to bring about social change, particularly to address economic inequality, which is explored in Part 4. The final section of the paper reviews emerging trends in philanthropy. This working paper does not cover Chinese American philanthropy, which is examined by another component of the Global Chinese Philanthropy Initiative.

d Here...
Full Report