cover image Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?

Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?

Joel L. Fleishman. PublicAffairs, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61039-532-8

Fleishman, a law and public-policy professor at Duke University, carries out a thorough but intimidatingly dense survey of a recent shift in American charitable giving. He explains that while American philanthropy is at a high, philanthropists are rejecting a long-established model—handing over funds to preexisting and presumably long-lasting entities—in favor of direct donations or time-limited projects unlikely to outlive themselves—a model he calls “giving while living.” The book convincingly argues that if wealthy individuals fail to support “perpetual organizations” such as the Ford Foundation, it will be at the expense of America’s civic infrastructure. Fleishman pinpoints conservatives as leading the antifoundation trend, out of fear that legacy organizations almost inevitably become more liberal over time. Fleishman also has insights about how time-limited foundations achieve results, about the unique role of family foundations, and about the advantages of perpetual foundations. Despite the author’s evident expertise, his book falters in the execution, which is unnecessarily dense and repetitive. Few readers will make it to his epilogue, which supplies the unilluminating answer “both” to the question in the book’s subtitle and recommends donating to political candidates as the most effective method of “giving while living.” Fleishman has crafted an interesting exploration of timely questions, but the treatment is too heavy and intense for a lay audience. [em](Sept.) [/em]