Giving Thought


Our regular podcast series explores trends in global philanthropy and civil society.

About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society.  Since launching in May 2017, the podcast has become recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate. 

In each episode Rhodri Davies, Director of our Giving Thought Think Tank, and guests, take a contemporary issue in philanthropy and civil society and break it down into three manageable chunks, giving an overview of the extensive work they have done on the subject. 

Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.


11 December 2018

In episode 39 we look at the relationship between philanthropy and empathy. Including:

  • What does neuroscience tell us about the link between empathy and altruism?
  • The importance of physical proximity
  • Does empathy lead us to prioritise giving to those who are sufficiently “like us”, at the expense of others?
  • How do our unconscious biases affect our empathy? The identifiable victim bias and victim blaming.
  • Is empathy in tension with rationality when it comes to philanthropy?
  • Historical examples of approaches to philanthropy that lacked empathy: home visitations, voting charities and “telescopic philanthropy”
  • Rationality vs empathy throughout history: from the Charity Organization Societies to Effective Altruism?
  • What impact will technology have on our ability to be empathetic in future?
  • How can Virtual Reality be used to drive empathetic responses from donors and supporters?
  • Will tech-enabled ‘filter bubbles’ negatively affect our ability to empathise?
  • Rationality vs Empathy 2.0? Will philanthropy in the future be shaped by VR and experiential technologies, or by AI and data-driven decision making?

Related Content

Rob Reich: Philanthropy, Democracy & Inequality

27 November 2018

In episode 38 we talk to Professor Rob Reich from Stanford University about his new book, Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How it Can Do Better and about his wider work exploring the political philosophy of philanthropy.  In a wide-ranging conversation, we cover:

  • What motivated him to write the book?
  • Why has philanthropy been largely ignored as a subject of study by political philosophers and political theorists over the years?
  • Does he see his book as part of a growing trend of criticism of elite philanthropy at the moment?
  • Why does he think philanthropy subverts democracy?
  • Is elite philanthropy a plutocratic exercise of power? And can this ever be justified?
  • Does mass market philanthropy represent a powerful means of decentralising power and choice about public goods? Or is this always undermined by the disproportionate influence of those with large amounts to give?
  • Do tax breaks for philanthropy exacerbate inequality? How could we structure them differently?
  • How should we understand the role of foundations?
  • If one of the key benefits of foundation philanthropy is innovation and 'discovery', how do we ensure this is at the heart of what they do?
  • Why are endowed structures that exist in perpetuity a particular problem?
  • What has been the response from policymakers, philanthropists and foundation leaders to his arguments? And what would ideally like them to do?

Useful links

Philanthropy and the welfare state

13 November 2018

In episode 37, we explore the relationship between philanthropy and the notion of a Welfare State. We look at the role philanthropy played in the origins of state welfare, what economics and other sciences can tell us about the relationship between the two, and how we should view the role of philanthropy in relation to the state today. Including:

  • The history of the back-and-forth relationship between philanthropy and state in the UK
  • Why did some think the birth of the Welfare State should have spelt the end for philanthropy?
  • Is there a relationship between the size of the state and levels of giving?
  • Does state welfare provision necessarily "crowd out" philanthropy? Or could it actually "crowd it in"?
  • The importance of charitable campaigning within the welfare state
  • The emergence of outsourcing and public service commissioning
  • Are we now seeing a backlash against public service delivery by charities?

Philanthropy, risk and innovation

30 October 2018

In episode 36, we look at the relationship between risk, innovation and philanthropy. The ability to take risks and innovate is often claimed to be one of the key strengths of philanthropy, but is this really true? How does philanthropy innovate? Why can it take risks? And what makes it different to state or private sector approaches? Topics we cover include:

  • What kinds of risk can philanthropy take?
  • Why is it able to take these risks?
  • Does philanthropy find innovative new ways of achieving social outcomes?
  • What is the exit for philanthropic innovation once it has been proven to work?
  • Is philanthropy losing its control of social innovation to the public and private sector?
  • How has philanthropy itself innovated over time? From the rise of associational philanthropy in the 18th century to the development of mass-market giving in the 20th century
  • Social investment and blended approaches
  • Micro donations and automated philanthropy
  • Innovation in causes: philanthropic campaigning and public opinion
  • When does innovation become self-indulgence? Silicon Valley philanthropy and private space travel

Philanthropy and religion

16 October 2018

In episode 35, we look at the relationship between religion, faith and philanthropy. Including:

1     Faith as a factor in individual giving

  • Evidence from behavioural science
  • The role of places of worship in bring diverse communities together and making people aware of issues
  • Religious identity, communities of purpose and giving circles
  • Religious obligations to give: tithing, Tzedakah and Zakat

2     Organised religion and the evolution of charity

  • 1601 Statute of Charitable Uses: why wasn't religion included?
  • The 1891 Pemsel Case and the 'four heads of charity'
  • US religious causes and closed congregations

3     Religion, philanthropy and civil society today

  • Is religion still the most popular cause?
  • Obligations to fund the monastic life in Myanmar and Thailand
  • The deep relationship between international aid and religion
  • Places of worship as community focal points and welfare providers
  • Is the world getting less religious or more?
  • Religious persecution

Connie Gallippi - Cryptophilanthropy and Blockchain

 2 October 2018

In episode 34, Rhod chats to Connie Gallippi, Founder and CEO of the BitGive Foundation (the first US nonprofit to accept cryptocurrency donations). They discuss:

  • What is the potential for cryptophilanthropy?
  • What are some of the practical challenges to taking donations in cryptocurrency?
  • Is the current crypto bear market likely to result in more or fewer donations of crypto?
  • What is the wider potential of blockchain for the nonprofit sector?
  • What does radical transparency bring for donors and beneficiaries?
  • How might we solve the blockchain last mile problem?
  • Should nonprofits be concerned about the environmental cost of existing blockchain tech?

ZOE AMAR - Charities, Technology and Digital Transformation

18 September 2018

In episode 33, we chat to digital expert Zoe Amar about digital transformation in the charity and non-profit world, and how organisations can get to grips with the opportunities and challenges presented by new technology. Topics covered include:

  • What role does leadership play in digital transformation?
  • Is new technology perceived as too risky? How can we overcome this barrier?
  • How will our workplaces need to change in response to developments in tech?
  • Is there a danger of a "digital brain drain" if non-profits cannot offer appealing opportunities for tech-savvy young professionals?
  • Can new technologies benefit small organisations as well as larger ones?
  • What role can charities play in the design of new technology to ensure it is human-centred?
  • Should charities be concerned about the mental health and social impacts of social media and other tech tools?
  • Can charities play a wider role in addressing the negative impact of technology?
  • Why should the non-profit world wake up to AI?

Chris Willis Pickup - Charity law, regulation and technology

4 September 2018

In episode 32 we chat to Chris Willis Pickup, Partner at Taylor Vinters law firm and former Head of Litigation for the Charity Commission for England and Wales. We discuss a whole host of topics including:

  • What does charity law actually entail?
  • Defining charitable purposes
  • Dormant trusts, the Cy Pres doctrine and the National Fund
  • Campaigning and charity law
  • What is the role of a charity regulator?
  • Developing digital skills in charities
  • Charity RegTech
  • What role can lawyers play in promoting philanthropy?

Civil Society Strategy Special

13 August 2018

In episode 31, we take a look through the recently published UK Government's Civil Society Strategy. We explore what it means for charities, businesses and communities in the UK, and how it fits in with wider global trends affecting civil society. Including:

  • the value of having a strategy
  • broadening the definition of civil society
  • place and civic philanthropy
  • civic engagement and direct democracy
  • the importance of civil society campaigning
  • welfare and the lines between state and voluntary provision throughout history
  • getting to grips with technology
  • responsible business
  • the UK's ambitions to be "the world leader in philanthropy services".

Fran Perrin: Philanthropy and transparency

17 July 2018

In episode 30, Rhod chats to Fran Perrin - founder and Director of the Indigo Trust, founder of 360 Giving, former government policy advisor and member of the famously philanthropic Sainsbury family - about promoting transparency in philanthropy.

Philanthropy, International Aid and blockchain technology

An interview with Ben Joakim and Paul Currion from Disberse

3 July 2018

In this episode (number 29), Rhodir chats to Ben Joakim and Paul Currion from Disberse - a fintech startup applying blockchain technology to the international development and aid sector. We had a wide-ranging chat about the challenges they have found in getting beyond the hype surrounding blockchain, and the genuine opportunities they believe the technology has to offer.

Ben Soskis - Learning from the history of philanthropy

26 June 2018

In episode 28, Rhod is joined by Ben Soskis, a Fellow at the Urban Institute and editor of, for a wide-ranging (and quite long!) chat about the history of philanthropy and what it can teach us about the big challenges facing charities and donors today.

An interview with Rachel Rank: Open Data, grantmaking and philanthropy

12 June 2018

In episode 27 of the podcast Rhod chats to Rachel Rank, CEO of 360 Giving ( an initiative promoting and supporting an Open Data approach among UK grantmakers.


Philanthropy, civil society and artificial intelligence

22 May 2018

In episode 26, Rhod looks at the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to have on philanthropy and civil society. Topics covered include:

  • 3 broad ways AI will affect civil society
  • AI for Good
  • The wider operating environment
  • Negative consequences of AI

Fundraising: an interview with Dan Fluskey

8 May 2018

In this episode Rhod chats to Dan Fluskey, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the UK's Institute of Fundraising about the asking side of the philanthropy equation. Topics covered include:

  • Is there actually a crisis of public trust in charities?
  • Is fundraising supposed to make us feel uncomfortable?
  • How are fundraisers using new technology like virtual reality (VR)?

Jeremy Heimans on Philanthropy, Civil Society & "New Power"

25 April 2018

Episode 24 of the Giving Thought podcast is our first ever interview! And it is a cracker. Rhod speaks to Jeremy Heimans, co-author of bestselling book "New Power". We discussed Jeremy and his co-author Henry Timms' thesis on why the nature of power has changed in the 21st Century and what this might mean for philanthropy and civil society. 

Involuntary Philanthropy

10 April 2018
In this episode, Rhod looks at whether philanthropic giving is always a choice on the part of the donor, or whether it can sometimes be compelled. Topics covered include: compelled by your peers, compelled by a higher authority and compelled by your own mind.

Is Philanthropy Progressive?

27 March 2018

In episode 22, we explore whether philanthropy is progressive: i.e. is it a means for moving society forwards or a tool for defending the status quo? Including the case for, the case against and remedies.

New Money Vs. Old Money

13 March 2018

In episode 21, we look at "New Money vs. Old Money", and what the difference between inherited and created wealth means for philanthropy. Topics covered include: Attitudes to Wealth, Future Money and Pre-commitment and Cryptophilanthropy.

Philanthropy, death and taxes - part 2

27 February 2018

In this week's episode (no. 20) - the second of our "Death and Taxes" two-parter, we look at the link between tax and philanthropy. Topics covered include: importance and controversy, justifying philanthropic tax breaks and do philanthropic tax breaks work?

Philanthropy, death and taxes - part 1

13 February 2018

In episode 19, the first of a two-parter on "Philanthropy, Death and Taxes", Rhod looks at the influence of mortality on giving. Topics covered include: the history of death and philanthropy, giving while living vs. waiting til you are gone and the future of death: life extension, digital emulation & wills on the Blockchain.

Philanthropy and technology

30 January 2018

In episode 18 of the podcast, Rhod takes a look at the relationship between philanthropy and technology including: supporting technology, harnessing technology and challenging technology.

Is philanthropy rational?

16 January 2018

In episode 17, Rhod will be asking whether philanthropy is rational,and what lessons we should take from our answer to this question. Topics covered include: the micro/macro philanthropy paradox, rationalising philanthropy and social impact prediction markets.

2018 predictions

3 January 2018

In episode 16, Rhod gives some thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing charities, donors and civil society organisations around the globe over the coming year.  Predictions include: a renewed focus on tax relief for donations, an increasingly difficult environment for advocacy, more focus on data, more interest in addressing the ethical challenges of AI and other technologies, more donations of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and new digital assets being created and donated.

visit the Podcast archive

Rhodri Davies, our Head of Policy, has hosted the influential Giving Thought podcast since May 2017.  Each episode explores a big issue, theme or trend and analyses what it means for philanthropy and civil society around the world. Previous topics include: Bad Money and Philanthropy, Psychology of Philanthropy, Education and Philanthropy and Hollywood Philanthropy.

All episodes are available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

Visit the Giving Thought Libsyn podcast archive

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Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, CAF’s in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.

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