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Philanthrocapitalism is a way of doing philanthropy, which mirrors the way that business is done in the for-profit world. It may involve venture philanthropy that actively invests in social programs to pursue specific philanthropic goal that would yield return on investment over the long term, or in a more passive form whereby "social investors" benefit from investing in socially-responsible programs.[1]


The term was coined by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green in their book Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save The World. The book was endorsed by Bill Clinton, who wrote in its foreword that this concept drives the Clinton Foundation.[2] The shift in implementing business models in charity is not a new concept – John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie sought to apply their business strategies in their philanthropy in the twentieth century.[3] Since then, a significant increase in charity spending by other organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, both described as examples of philanthrocapitalism, has been noted.[4][5][6]

These more modern organizations differ from other groups or organizations since their funds come more from the private capital of an individual rather than donors or profit from physical products.[5] The integration of business models in charity foundations has focused on a symbiotic relationship between social responsibility and the local, national, and international markets.[5] Philanthrocapitalism has been compared and contrasted with altruism due to the similar stated goals of the movements’ advocates.[6]


There are many criticisms of philanthrocapitalism beginning with the limited transparency and accountability involved.[2] There are also concerns that private philanthropy erodes support for governmental spending on public services.[2] The main worry with this practice is that collectively, it can lead to tax revenue problems for the government.[4] Donations are still going towards philanthropy, but some public services may not be able to utilize these funds because they may never receive them.[4] Because of this, there is concern[from whom?] that the wealth of a few may be able to determine what organizations receive the most funding.[4]

It was also noticed[by whom?] that many current and past philanthropists amassed their fortunes by predatory business practices which enhanced the very social problems their philanthropy is intended to alleviate.[2] Finally there are concerns of the existence of ulterior motives.[2] These ulterior motives can range from business owners avoiding capital-gains taxes by donating their company's excess stock instead of selling it and estate taxes which would be assessed onto their family to collecting tax credits from the government.[2][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The birth of philanthrocapitalism -The leading new philanthropists see themselves as social investors". Economist. 23 February 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Linsey McGoey, No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, ISBN 1784781193 , 2015
  3. ^ Birn, Anne-Emanuelle (January 2014). "Philanthrocapitalism, past and present: The Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the setting(s) of the international/global health agenda". Hypothesis. 12 (1). 
  4. ^ a b c d e Cassidy, John (December 2, 2015). "Mark Zuckerberg and the Rise of Philanthrocapitalism". The New Yorker. 
  5. ^ a b c "Philanthrocapitalism, the Gates Foundation and global health – an interview with Linsey McGoey". 23 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b McGoey, Linsey. "Philanthrocapitalism and its critics". Poetics. 40 (2): 185-199.