Bossy Boots’ best books on philanthropy

In 2009 I blogged about how much I love being asked to suggest good books on philanthropy. I like to think it’s a type of gift to share suggestions, but I’m willing to accept it’s just another form of bossiness to try to nudge other people to read the books I’m into.

I’m slightly shocked to see that the 3 books I named in that previous blog are pretty much still the same books I’d suggest today. Has nothing changed in five years? I would actually add a few newbies: Oliver Zunz’s majestic history of US philanthropy (though why oh why is there no UK equivalent?); Angie Eikenberry’s insightful study of giving circles (glad to report that Angie and I are now working on a UK equivalent); and Caroline Fiennes’ thought provoking and readable ‘It Ain’t What You Give It’s the Way that You Give It‘ have all been good reads in the last few years. But I still keep recommending the same top 3 as I picked last decade:

1. Peter Frumkin (2006) ‘Strategic Giving: the art and science of philanthropy’.

2. Robert Payton & Michael Moody (2008) ‘Understanding Philanthropy: It’s meaning and mission’.

3. Matthew Bishop & Michael Green (2008) ‘Philanthropcapitalism‘.

nonprofit bookshelf


My colleague Eddy Hogg is running a virtual book group. His first pick is Philanthrocapitalism.  In that blog way back in 2009  I wrote: “If you only read one book, this is the one to go for” and I stand by that. You can read a full review here and there’s more material on the book’s website, which is regularly updated. So here’s my contribution to the book group discussion:

This book is essential reading because it provides the most comprehensive and well-researched review of contemporary global giving that exists to date. Bishop and Green authoritatively map out the terrain of philanthropy at the start of the 21st century, contextualise that account within recent history and offer a balanced summary of the pros and cons of new developments, making space to air criticisms of the techniques, individuals and organisations that they ultimately endorse. The book also provides useful potted histories of many relevant organisations and extremely insightful pen-pictures of key individuals who are involved in contemporary philanthropy.

NB: I used to curate the ‘Book Review’ pages on the Philanthropy UK website, and it still exists in a new incarnation for Philanthropy Impact, so do take a look here if you want more bossy suggestions.


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