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New guard wields influence

In a matter of years, a new crop of ultra wealthy Americans has eclipsed the old guard of philanthropic titans. With names like Soros, Gates, Bloomberg, Mercer, Koch and Zuckerberg, these new mega-donors are upending long-established norms in the staid world of big philanthropy, the Australian Financial Review reports.

They have accumulated vast fortunes early in their lives. They are spending it faster and writing bigger cheques. And they are increasingly willing to take on hot-button social and political issues – on the right and left – that thrust them into the centre of contentious debates.

Many new philanthropists appear less interested in naming a business school after themselves than in changing the world.

“They have a problem-solving mentality rather than a stewardship mentality,” said David Callahan, founder of the website Inside Philanthropy and author of The Givers, a book about today’s major donors. “They are not saving their money for a rainy day. They want to have impact now.”

“We’re seeing a real changing of the guard,” said Callahan. “The top foundations, especially measured by annual giving, are more and more piloted by people who are alive.”

That may sound like good news all around. If a handful of billionaires want to spend their fortunes saving lives, why not simply applaud them? But as their ambitions grow, so, too, does their influence, meaning that for better or worse, a few billionaires are wielding considerable influence over everything from medical research to social policy to politics.

“This is a small group of people, who have made way more money than they need, deciding what issues they care about. That affects us all,” said Eileen Heisman, chief executive of the National Philanthropic Trust, a nonprofit that works with foundations.


How big a donation allows you a say in running the world? (Australian Financial Review)


Bill Gates / World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Sebastian Derungs / Flickr / Wikipedia / CCA BY SA 2.0