Support Common Dreams Today
Journalism that is independent, non-profit, ad-free, and 100% reader-supported.
To donate by check, phone, or other method, see our More Ways to Give page.
A new report, "Gilded Giving: Top Heavy Philanthropy in an Age of Extreme Inequality," authored by Chuck Collins, Helen Flannery, and Josh Hoxie of the Institute for Policy Studies and Inequality.org, raises the specter of a philanthropic sector dominated by wealthy mega-donors and their foundations, and donor-advised funds.
"The growth of inequality is mirrored in philanthropy," said report co-author Chuck Collins. "As wealth concentrates in fewer hands, so does philanthropic giving and power. We believe this poses considerable risks to both our independent sector and democracy."
The report warns that unprecedented levels of charitable giving in recent years mask a troubling trend. Charities are increasingly relying on larger and larger donations from smaller numbers of high-income, high-wealth donors. Meanwhile, receiving shrinking amounts of revenue from the vast population of donors at lower and middle-income levels.
The report also finds that increasingly top-heavy giving has significant implications for the practice of fundraising, the role of the independent nonprofit sector, and the health of our larger democratic civil society.
Risks to charitable sector organizations include increased volatility and unpredictability in funding, making it more difficult to budget and forecast income into the future; an increased need to shift toward major donor cultivation; and an increased bias toward funding larger or heavily major-donor-directed boutique organizations and projects. The increasing power of a small number of donors also increases the potential for mission distortion.
Risks to the public include the rise of tax avoidance philanthropy, the warehousing of wealth in the face of urgent needs, self-dealing philanthropy, and the increasing use of philanthropy as an extension of power and privilege protection.
Charitable contributions from donors at the top of the income and wealth ladder have increased significantly over the past decade. From 2003 to 2013, itemized charitable contributions from people making $500,000 or more--roughly the top one percent of income earners in the United States--increased by 57 percent. And itemized contributions from people making $10 million or more increased by almost double that rate--104 percent--over the same period.
The number of private grant-making foundations has shown similar dramatic growth. The number of grant-making foundations in the United States has doubled since 1993, from 43.956 to 67,736 in 2004, and to 86,726 in 2014. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of foundations increased 28 percent and the amount of assets held in those foundations increased 35 percent.
Over the past ten years, charitable giving deductions from lower income donors have declined significantly, at almost the same rate that contributions from higher income donors have increased. While itemized charitable deductions from donors making $100,000 or more increased by 40 percent, itemized charitable deductions from donors making less than $100,000 declined by 34 percent.
The number of donors giving at typical donation levels has been steadily declining. According to one estimate, low-dollar and midrange donors to national public charities have declined by as much as 25 percent over the ten years from 2005 to 2015. These are the people who have traditionally made up the vast majority of donor files and lists for most national nonprofits since their inception.
The rate of decline in small-dollar donors correlates strongly with indicators of overall economic security in the United States, such as wages, employment, and homeownership rates. This correlation indicates that donor declines are likely due, in large part, to changing economic conditions.
"Since the last recession, the charitable sector has seen tremendous growth in giving," said report co-author Helen Flannery. "That's a good thing, in theory. But the growth is from donors at the top of the giving ladder, while giving from small and midlevel donors is steadily falling. And more and more giving is going into warehousing vehicles like foundations and donor advised funds, instead of to charities on the ground."
"The trends in philanthropy may be less visible than trends in income and wealth inequality, but they are following the same trajectory. Without intervention, these trends lead toward multi-generational wealth dynasties on one side and widespread austerity on the other," added co-author Josh Hoxie.
The report tracks significant changes in philanthropic giving in recent years, puts forward a number of possible implications of these changes, and offers some solutions.
Institute for Policy Studies turns Ideas into Action for Peace, Justice and the Environment. We strengthen social movements with independent research, visionary thinking, and links to the grassroots, scholars and elected officials. I.F. Stone once called IPS "the think tank for the rest of us." Since 1963, we have empowered people to build healthy and democratic societies in communities, the US, and the world. Click here to learn more, or read the latest below.
Peruvian security forces have met protests against unelected President Dina Boluarte with "indiscriminate violence," the U.S. lawmakers wrote.
Twenty House Democrats on Monday pressed the Biden administration to immediately halt the flow of security funding to the Peruvian government over its vicious crackdown on protests against unelected President Dina Boluarte, who rose to power following the arrest of leftist President Pedro Castillo last month.
Since Castillo's arrest and imprisonment—which drew vocal opposition from political leaders in the region—mass demonstrations have broken out and spread across Peru as largely low-income and Indigenous supporters of Castillo mobilize to demand his release, Boluarte's resignation, and sweeping constitutional reforms. Peru's security forces have swiftly and violently cracked down in an unsuccessful attempt to quell the uprising, killing more than 50 people and injuring hundreds more.
In a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, a group of House Democrats led by Reps. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) condemned the "indiscriminate violence" and "consistent use of excessive force" by Peruvian security forces and urged the administration to "publicly denounce these ongoing human rights violations."
The lawmakers also called on Biden to pause all security funding to Peru, which amounts to tens of millions of dollars annually. The House Democrats pointed with alarm to the U.S. ambassador to Peru's "recent meeting with the Peruvian minister of defense and announcement of $8 million in further U.S. funding for CORAH, a Peruvian government coca eradication program, which includes funding for forces involved in the egregious human rights violations that are currently taking place."
"We urge your administration to immediately suspend U.S. security assistance to Peru until the violent repression of protests ends and steps are taken by the country's authorities to investigate human rights crimes and prosecute those responsible," the lawmakers wrote.
\u201cThank you to @RepRaulGrijalva, @RepChuyGarcia, @JanSchakowsky and so many other colleagues for joining me in standing with the people of Peru. It is past time to demonstrate a dedication to human rights through actions, not just words.\nhttps://t.co/2joPwBZcBE\u201d— Rep. Susan Wild (@Rep. Susan Wild) 1675120811
Boluarte, who has imposed curfews in several regions and curtailed civil liberties, is urging Peru's conservative-dominated Congress to approve a plan to hold new elections this year instead of in 2024 in an effort to end the demonstrations. Resisting pressure to resign, Boluarte—who served as vice president under Castillo—has pledged to stay on as president until new elections are held.
As Agence France-Presse reported Monday: "Boluarte said that if lawmakers refused to bring forward the vote, she would propose a constitutional reform so that a first round of elections would be held in October and a runoff in December. Demonstrators are calling for immediate elections, as well as Boluarte's removal, the dissolution of Congress, and a new constitution."
In their letter, the 20 House Democrats raised concern that the Biden administration has granted legitimacy and support to the Boluarte government as it rolls back basic freedoms and kills demonstrators.
Less than two weeks after Castillo's arrest, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Boluarte in which he
said he "looks forward" to working with her "on shared goals and values related to democracy, human rights, security, anti-corruption, and economic prosperity."
The Democratic lawmakers also pointed to the Biden administration's expressed support for "peace on all sides," a message that the members of Congress called "ambiguous" in the face of massive human rights violations.
"The U.S. government can and must do more," the lawmakers wrote. "We believe our proposed actions would send a powerful signal in support of fundamental rights and help promote effective engagement for a political resolution."
"What is the common vision to guide the Global South out of this crisis?" asked the Progressive International. "What is the plan to win it?"
Delegates to the Havana Congress on the New International Economic Order—a gathering organized by the Progressive International and attended by more than 50 scholars and policymakers from 26 countries across all six inhabited continents—agreed over the weekend on a declaration that outlines a "common vision" for building an egalitarian and sustainable society out of the wreckage of five decades of neoliberal capitalism.
"The crisis of the existing world system can either entrench inequalities," the declaration asserts, or it can "embolden" popular movements throughout the Global South to "reclaim" their role as protagonists "in the construction of a new world order based on justice, equity, and peace."
Delegates resolved to focus their initial efforts on strengthening the development and dissemination of lifesaving technologies in low-income nations.
"Delegates agreed that a key priority must be to secure science and technology sovereignty."
This decision comes one year after Cuban officials announced, at a press conference convened by the Progressive International (PI), their plan to deliver 200 million homegrown Covid-19 vaccine doses to impoverished countries abandoned by their wealthy counterparts and Big Pharma—along with tools to enable domestic production and expert support to improve distribution.
It also comes as Cuba assumes the presidency of the Group of 77 (G77), a bloc of 134 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where "the combined crises of food, energy, and environment" are escalating, PI noted.
"What is the common vision to guide the Global South out of this crisis?" the coalition asked. "What is the plan to win it? What is the New International Economic Order for the 21st century?"
"After two days of detailed discussions about how to transform our shared world, delegates agreed that a key priority must be to secure science and technology sovereignty," PI general coordinator David Adler said Sunday at the conclusion of the Havana Congress. "From pharmaceuticals to green tech, from digital currencies to microchips, too much of humanity is locked out of both benefiting from scientific advances and contributing to new ones. We will, as today's declaration calls for, work to build 'a planetary bloc led by the South and reinforced by the solidarities of the North' to liberate knowledge and peoples."
Speaking at the January 12 ceremony during which Cuba ascended to the G77 presidency, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla emphasized the need for coordinated action across the Global South on science and tech, arguing that "scientific-technical development is today monopolized by a club of countries that monopolize most of the patents, technologies, research centers, and promote the drain of talent from our countries."
The G77 Summit on Science, Technology, and Innovation, scheduled for September in Havana, seeks to "unite, complement each other, integrate our national capacities so as not to be relegated to future pandemics," said Parrilla.
During his speech on the first day of the Havana Congress, meanwhile, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called for a new non-aligned movement to "end the legalized robbery of people and Earth fueling climate catastrophe."
\u201cAt the Havana Congress on the New International Economic Order, @yanisvaroufakis calls for a New Non-Aligned Movement to "end the legalised robbery of people and Earth fuelling climate catastrophe."\n\nRead his full speech here: https://t.co/P8zdht8FD9\u201d— Progressive International (@Progressive International) 1674836693
Read the full Havana Declaration on the New International Economic Order:
The Havana Congress,
Recalling the role of the Cuban Revolution in the struggle to unite the Southern nations of the world, and the spirit of the 1966 Havana Tricontinental Conference that convened peoples from Asia, Africa, and Latin America to chart a path to collective liberation in the face of severe global crises and sustained imperial subjugation;
Hearing the echoes of that history today, as crises of hunger, disease, and war once again overwhelm the world, compounded by a rapidly changing climate and the droughts, floods, and hurricanes that not only threaten to inflame conflicts between peoples, but also risk the extinction of humanity at large;
Celebrating the legacy of the anti-colonial struggle, and the victories won by combining a program of sovereign development at home, solidarity for national liberation abroad, and a strong Southern bloc to force concessions to its interests, culminating in the adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO);
Acknowledging that the project of decolonization remains incomplete, disrupted by concerted attacks on the unity of the South in the form of wars, coups, sanctions, structural adjustment, and the false promise that sovereign development might be won through integration into a hierarchical world system;
Emphasizing that the result has been the sustained divergence between North and South, characterized by the same dynamics that defined the international economic order five decades prior: the extraction of natural resources, the enclosure of 'intellectual property,' the plunder of structural adjustment, and the exclusion of the multilateral system;
Recognizing that despite these setbacks, the flame of Southern resistance did not die; that the pursuit of sovereign development has yielded unprecedented achievements—from mass literacy and universal healthcare to poverty alleviation and medical innovation—that enable a renewed campaign of Southern cooperation today;
Stressing that this potential for Southern unity is perceived as a threat to Northern powers, which seek once again to preserve their position in the hierarchy of the world system through mechanisms of economic exclusion, political coercion, and military aggression;
Seizing the opportunity of the present historical juncture, when the crisis of the existing world system can either entrench inequalities or embolden the call to reclaim Southern protagonism in the construction of a new world order based on justice, equity, and peace;
The Havana Congress calls to:
"It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel 'Tortuguita' Paez Terán," said one group. "We join calls for the termination of the lease and for Mayor Dickens' resignation."
A coalition of more than 1,300 climate and racial justice groups from across the United States on Monday joined a call for an independent investigation into the police killing of forest defender Manuel Paez Terán earlier this month, and demanded the resignation of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
Nearly two weeks after the fatal shooting of the 26-year-old activist and medic—known as Tortuguita—Dickens "has still failed to condemn the killing," said the groups, and has instead opted "to condemn protestors and parrot the rhetoric of extreme right-wing governor Brian Kemp."
Tortuguita was shot and killed on January 18 when a joint task force including Atlanta police officers raided an encampment at Weelaunee forest. The forest is the site of a proposed $90 million police training facility known as Cop City.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality."
Over the weekend Dickens, a Democrat, condemned people who have protested Tortuguita's killing in Atlanta, accusing protesters of traveling to the city to "wreak havoc" at demonstrations that were overwhelmingly peaceful.
"Within a few hours of the shooting, Dickens tweeted support for [an] injured state trooper and completely ignored the death at the hands of a task force which included Atlanta police officers on his watch," wrote the groups, which include People vs. Fossil Fuels, Jewish Voice for Peace, Climate Justice Alliance, and Oil Change International. "As a growing number of Atlanta residents, national and global news outlets, and human rights and environmental organizations worldwide call for an investigation of the police narrative of Tortuguita's death, Dickens has dismissed their concerns. He has refused to bring any scrutiny to the one-sided and unsubstantiated recounting of events. Dickens has yet to offer condolences to the slain protestor's family."
The groups noted that Dickens and the Atlanta City Council have the authority to terminate the land lease for Cop City in the forest and called for the mayor to do so immediately, denouncing his strong support for the Atlanta Police Foundation's proposal.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality," said the groups. "Mayor Dickens can somehow find $90 million dollars for Cop City, one third of which will come from taxpayer money. Still, he can't find money to keep our already overwhelmed hospitals open or to finance much-needed affordable housing."
Ikiya Collective, a signatory of the letter, noted that the training slated to take place at Cop City "will impact organizing across the country" as police are trained to respond to popular uprisings.
"This is a national issue," said the collective. "Climate justice and police brutality are interconnected, which is why we are joining the Stop Cop City calls to action with the frontline communities in Atlanta."
"It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel 'Tortuguita' Paez Terán," said Ikiya Collective. "We join calls for the termination of the lease and for Mayor Dickens' resignation."