In Defence of Philanthropy

Beth Breeze

£60.00  |  $90.00
ISBN 9781788212601
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788212618
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788212625
192 pages   |  234 x 156mm   |  30 September 2021


 – WINNER of the 2022 AFP/Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy

"A masterly takedown ... a badly needed rebuttal to the rising chorus of denunciations directed at high-profile donors." – Wall Street Journal

"A powerful counterpoint ... while philanthropy is improvable, it is not illegitimate." – Financial Times

“Beth Breeze’s book could not be more timely. In the face of often crude attacks, it is a passionate, beautifully researched and thoughtful defence of philanthropy. This is an erudite, fascinating book. But it is more than that. It is a book that will lead to better philanthropy – and a book that will help civil society flourish. Essential reading for anyone interested in the charitable sector.”  – Paul Ramsbottom OBE, Chief Executive, Wolfson Foundation

"In Defence of Philanthropy is a deeply researched, acerbically (and brilliantly) written, and totally convincing refutation of the overly generalized, shallow, ahistorical, unhelpful, and counter-productive critiques of philanthropy that, while hardly new, have surged into fashion in recent years. The timing is perfect, as we emerge from years of simplistic cheap-shots about philanthropy and rebuild from a global pandemic, when we’ll desperately need givers to step up. Beth Breeze reminds us of the simple truth that giving matters – and that we should encourage it. With evidence, logic, and powerful examples, she shows us the good that effective philanthropy does in supporting organizations doing vital work, the ways it has improved both individual lives and free societies, and its vital role relative to business and government. Philanthropy, like all good things, can be mis-used or done poorly, but Breeze reminds us powerfully of our collective interest in encouraging, and not cynically demeaning, the deeply human impulse to help others." – Phil Buchanan, President, Center for Effective Philanthropy, and author of Giving Done Right

"Beth Breeze combines expert knowledge of the social scientific work on charitable giving with extensive personal knowledge of philanthropy and philanthropists. In accessible and engaging prose, she offers a conclusive response to the increasingly loud and unjustified attacks on philanthropy. It is unfortunate that philanthropy requires a defence, but thankfully this book more than meets the challenge." – Christopher Einolf, Director, Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies, Northern Illinois University

"Superbly scholarly yet intensely readable." – Bob Reid, President and Chief Executive, Edge Philanthropy

“Whatever your initial views on philanthropy, this is an important book in challenging many of the prevailing negative perceptions.” – Philippa Charles, Director, Garfield Weston Foundation


Running down “do-gooders” has become a popular pastime in recent years. Journalists and academics alike have lampooned and criticized philanthropists and big donors for their charitable activities, which are often characterized as a means of self-aggrandisement or tax evasion.

Yet, it is widely acknowledged that philanthropy – from the establishment of Carnegie libraries in the nineteenth century to the recent global health interventions of the Gates Foundation – has played a critical role in both developed and developing societies.

In an impassioned defence of the role of philanthropy in society, Beth Breeze tackles the main critiques levelled at philanthropy and questions the rationale for undermining and disparaging philanthropic acts. She contends that although it might be flawed, philanthropy is a sector that ought to be celebrated and championed so that an abundance of causes and interests can flourish.


Introduction: the need for a defence of philanthropy
1. What is philanthropy?
2. Is philanthropy really under attack?
3. The academic critique
4. The insider critique
5. The populist critique
6. Why do attacks on philanthropy stick and what can be done about it?
Conclusion: in praise of philanthropy

Author Information

Beth Breeze OBE is Director of the Centre for Philanthropy and Reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent. She began her career as a fundraiser for a youth homelessness charity, and spent a decade working in a variety of fundraising, research and charity management roles, including as deputy director at the Institute for Philanthropy. She is the author of The New Fundraisers: Who Organises Charitable Giving in Contemporary Society? (2017).