18 May 2021

On this episode we talk to Teddy Schleifer, Senior Reporter, Money & Influence at Recode (part of the Vox Media group), about billionaires, Silicon Valley and philanthropy. Including

Silicon Valley Philanthropy

  • Do most tech billionaires see their wealth as “self-made”, or do they recognise any sense of societal debt, luck etc? How does this shape their giving?
  • How does the wider public view the philanthropy of modern tech billionaires?
  • Are tech donors particularly prone to solutionism or a desire for “moonshots” in their philanthropy?
  • Are many big tech donors happy with the idea of giving away power as well as money? Or are they likely to want to retain control of decision-making about their philanthropy? Does this make them any different to other big money donors?
  • Are donors like Mackenzie Scott, who seem to be trying to shift power as well as financial resources through her philanthropy, merely outliers; or do they signal a wider trend?



Reporting on Philanthropy

  • Why is it important to have journalists focussing on philanthropy?
  • How do you balance focussing on the individual stories of philanthropists vs systemic issues about philanthropy as a whole?
  • Is there an argument for more philanthropic funding of journalistic scrutiny of philanthropy?
  • Could increased philanthropic funding of news media actually undermine journalism’s ability to hold philanthropy itself to account? (E.g. if outlets self-censor to avoid upsetting existing or potential patrons).


Critiques of Philanthropy

  • Is there a danger that scrutiny can tip over into cynicism when it comes to philanthropy?
  • Should we worry that the growing wave of scepticism, and even cynicism towards philanthropy, will have a negative impact on people’s willingness to give?
  • Of the current critiques levelled at philanthropy, which are potentially misguided or overstated, and which are genuinely important to heed?
  • Do these critiques only really apply to big money/elite philanthropy?


Transparency in Philanthropy

  • Do wealthy donors deliberately use philanthropy to deflect or preclude criticism of their business dealings, tax affairs etc, or are reputational benefits merely a side-effect of genuinely altruistic behaviour in some cases?
  • Do foundations (and donors) need to be more transparent? If so, why and about what? Who does it benefit (the foundations themselves, their donors, grantees, taxpayers etc.)
  • Should we be concerned about the growing trend for elite donors to use LLCs and other vehicles that may be less transparent?

About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society. Launched in 2017 it is recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate.  Rhodri Davies director of our Giving Thought Think Tank hosts the podcast, discussing contemporary issues and interviewing sector experts. Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

Visit the Giving Thought podcast library