Philanthropy, a Benchmark of Freedom

We often forget how fortunate we are to live in a country where private philanthropy is strong, and this recent editorial in the Philanthropy Roundtable Magazine reminds us of the importance of that freedom.

An excerpt.

This is a time of great national conflict. Our political leaders are making fundamental choices about the future of economic growth and job creation, entitlement programs, and the role of government in health care. The American people are deeply divided on many of these issues, and our federal government can sometimes seem dysfunctional, even paralyzed.

But I am happy to report: Philanthropy does not shut down. The amazing generosity of the American people is not paralyzed. Every week Americans voluntarily give away $6 billion to help other people. And when Americans give away our money, we don’t have to seek approval from Harry Reid or Ted Cruz or any other political leader. We can make our charitable decisions ourselves.

Consider three recent donations. The Walton Family Foundation gave a $5 million challenge grant to the Philadelphia School Partnership to support its efforts to create and expand high-performing charter, district, and Catholic schools. The Fisher House Foundation opened its 62nd home enabling the families of wounded servicemembers to live near the military hospitals where their loved ones are being treated. And Bruce and Suzie Kovner gave $60 million to the Juilliard School to provide fellowships for extraordinarily promising classical musicians.

These three donations represent philanthropic freedom at its best. An American citizen, or group of citizens, sees a problem, and steps up to find a solution, without waiting for government to act. Not everyone will agree with the decisions they make. Not everyone would give away his own money in the same way. But that is one of the great strengths of philanthropy. In a free, pluralistic society, different individuals will pursue different charitable objectives.

Retrieved August 26, 2014 from


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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