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: We look at the part peer pressure plays in philanthropy, both at a micro level (i.e. the effect that "being watched" has on prompting giving) and a macro level (i.e. the notion of a social contract). We also consider a bit of history (including a scathing attack on the culture of giving in Victorian England).
  • Compelled by a higher authority: We consider the role governments have played a role in shaping philanthropy through charity law: from the 1601 Statute of Charitable Uses to the emergence of "GONGOs" in modern China. We look at the idea of "percentage philanthropy", and whether it should be seen as philanthropy at all, or merely a form of tax. We also touch on obligations to give in various major religions and what role these play in driving philanthropy.
  • Compelled by your own mind: We explore unusual cases of "pathological generosity", where people with brain damage find themselves compelled to give to such a degree that it can adversely affect them and their families.

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.

Visit the Giving Thought podcast library

Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our 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.   Read more about Rhodri



Speaker profile: Rhodri Davies

Rhodri's specialist areas include philanthropy, history of philanthropy, the future of giving, Blockchain/Bitcoin and charity, artificial intelligence and giving, augmented/virtual reality and charity and the science of charitable giving.


Our project to create a world where new technologies and social trends have a positive impact on the future of civil society.

Giving Thought think-tank

Giving Thought is where we consider the key challenges facing civil society globally, explore how and why people give, and test radical new ideas that could shape the future of charity.