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Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving Hardcover – September 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"Read this book before you make your next donation to charity!  It could make your donation thousands of times more effective.  Philanthropy needs reinventing, and that reinvention will have to start with more thoughtful donors.  Friedman's engagingly written book will help you to become one of those more thoughtful donors."
Peter Singer, author of The Life You Can Save, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University

"Like the philosopher Peter Singer, Eric Friedman is a radical utilitarian. But while Singer focuses on how much a person should give-almost everything-Friedman concentrates on what one should give to. He argues that the only legitimate objective of philanthropy is maximizing the wellbeing of humanity, regardless of one's personal passions. Even readers who are not prepared to entirely abandon their passions will be pressed to rethink their giving, and they will also pick up some tips for good grantmaking."
Paul Brest, Stanford University, former president, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

"In our increasingly interconnected world, charitable giving has the potential to save and improve millions of lives.  Reinventing Philanthropy is an important read for anyone who wants to spend their money wisely and have it make the greatest impact.  Filled with practical advice and compelling case studies, the book gives philanthropists a clear roadmap for how to donate more effectively--and ultimately, achieve transformational results." 
Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF

"The most funding often goes to the issues with the best PR groups, with the most scary pictures or with the cutest animals. That needs to change. We need to reinvent philanthropy, to focus on getting the most bang for the buck. Eric Fridman shows you how to think smarter and do better." 
Bjørn Lomborg, adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center

"Reinventing Philanthropy gives voice to a new generation of individual donors.  Not everyone will follow Friedman's specific path.  But if all follow his lead to focus on impact and think bang-for-buck, individual donors will not only reinvent philanthropy, they will change the world."
Katherina M. Rosqueta, Founding Executive Director, Center for High Impact Philanthropy

"This book shows you how to improve the impact of your charitable contributions, their effect in improving welfare where improvement is most badly needed. United Way will not like it; your alma mater will not like it; your local scout troop and the church that sponsors it will not like it; and maybe the hospital that saved your life won’t like it. But among the ill and the hungry of the world, it may help millions to live longer and healthier if enough people read this book."
--Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Harvard University and University of Maryland, Emeritus

"This book will push you to think hard about why you really give: is it to feel good, or to truly change the world as effectively as you can? If you agree with everything in the book, this likely means you didnt read it very carefully. Lots of controversial ideas to challenge conventions. The world will be a better place if more people take this hard-nosed analytical approach to philanthropy. What we need now is better ongoing analysis of organizations that helps donors act on the ideals put forward here."
--Dean Karlan, Professor at Yale University, President of Innovations for Poverty Action, co-author of More than Good Intentions: How a New Economics is Helping to Solve Global Poverty

"The norms of charitable giving are too much heart and not enough head. Reinventing Philanthropy seeks to balance the two, exploring techniques for more effective giving. If youre looking to become a more effective donor, this book is a must-read." 
--William MacAskill, co-founder of the Centre for Effective Altruism and founder and president of 80,000 Hours, an ethical careers advisory service

From the Author

Amazon Readers,

Philanthropy is broken and almost everyone involved knows it. Many donors recognize that they cannot define a "high-performing" nonprofit, let alone identify one. Fundraisers know that the causes getting the most donations are not necessarily the ones that make the greatest impact. Program staff know that tremendous resources--both time and money--are used to engage and solicit donors. Longtime observers of the philanthropic world know that the personal whims and preferences of donors often determine where dollars flow, regardless of need or impact. Philanthropy isn't working as it should, and donors are best positioned to change the status quo.

This book doesn't suggest simple answers to complex problems. Instead, it offers a discussion of some of the critical issues donors should consider. When I first started giving, I was motivated by my emotions and assumed that a quick look at fundraising material was sufficient to pick a good charity. However, as I began to learn more, I not only realized that this was insufficient, but also found myself challenging many commonly accepted views about charitable giving.  The book directly addresses controversial issues in charitable giving--to see an example, I encourage you to read chapter 1 from the "look inside" feature of Amazon. 

Giving can go a long way to improve the world, and donors who embrace the process of critical thinking are more likely to make a greater impact.  I hope that this book helps you through the self-reflection and analysis necessary to reinvent your own philanthropy.

Eric Friedman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books (September 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612345727
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612345727
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By H. P. on September 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In Joe Queenan's recent book, One for the Books, he argues the basic problem with books by journalists is that they tend to really just be magazine ideas, and thus tend to have a couple good intro chapters and then a lot of filler. Friedman isn't a journalist, but what he has here is a magazine idea. Unfortunately for us, he chose to package it in book form. The result is a dry and dull affair that drones on far too long.

Friedman's goal is to change donors' behavior in order to maximize the positive impacts of their giving. This is a book written by a donor, for donors (i.e., not entrenched in a flawed system). Friedman thinks people give far too much based on emotional connection and the personal relevance of an issue and divides donors between "do-gooders," who tend to "act with more heart than head," and "do-besters," who are "earnest, yet practical humanitarians or reformers whose actions attempt to maximize positive impacts."

Friedman pretty clearly believes that charitable giving is far to US-centric and too focused on the arts and elite universities. He is right, and it is those institutions that are most vested in keeping the present model. Do-besters focus on the world's poorest countries and measure results. Friedman's 8 Principles of do-bester-ism are:
1. "The organization should share your do-bester values."
2. "The staff should be top-notch."
3. "The organizations should focus on cost-effective solutions to big problems."
4. "Give appropriate credit to organizations that emphasize scalable and sustainable solutions."
5. "Programs should not be built around donors."
6. "The organizations should have evidence on how well their programs work."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Chambers HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on September 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Author Eric Friedman has written a very insightful and thought-provoking book for charitable donors who want to maximize the positive impact of their giving. It's primarily about giving money, but the book also covers volunteering one's time and labor instead of cash. One of the difficulties for philanthropists is making philosophical judgments on sticky subjects like the relative values of saving lives versus improving quality of life, and the author addresses these issues head-on. I found the book to be very readable, filled with practical advice and actual case studies.

In the first part of the book, the author discusses the philosophy of philanthropy. Many donors give to charities that affect them emotionally rather than to charities where their money will do the most good. The author classifies giving as either "expressive" (expresses the donor's feelings) or "instrumental" (creates positive change for the most recipients). Most giving is a combination of the two types. In the world of philanthropy, there is little willingness to explicitly acknowledge that some good causes are better than others. The book classifies donors as either "do-gooders" or "do-besters," depending on how determined the donor is to put their money where it will have the greatest impact.

The second part of the book concerns practical strategies for effective giving. Since most individuals lack the knowledge and experience to choose the most worthy charities, charity-rating systems have been developed, but most of these agencies focus more on the finances of a charity, and don't do as much to assess the effectiveness of an organization. This is changing gradually, as some agencies are working to include the charities' missions and how well they're achieving their goals, but it's a slow change.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Penley on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Reinventing Philanthropy gets under your skin like a dentist's advice to floss. You know in your head you should do it but don't always feel like taking the time.

Eric Friedman simply wants giving to be effective. What does that mean? He wants people to engage in thinking critically about the world's greatest needs and our best solutions. He is frustrated. "Giving is too often about making the donor feel better and too infrequently about making those in need better" (12). So Friedman wants to reinvent philanthropy and make the new normal--utilitarian, issue-agnostic donors who support charities offering "the greatest help to the greatest number of people" (182).

How does Friedman motivate donors to practice high-impact philanthropy?

Do-Gooders VS. Do-Besters

Reinventing Philanthropy splits the entire genus of givers into two species: do-gooders and do-besters. The utilitarian dichotomy permeates the book as approaches to giving are slotted on one side or the other. Do-gooders need emotional connections to causes they support. Do-besters are emotionally satisfied whenever the most critical needs are addressed with the most effective solutions. Do-gooders believe every cause is equally worthy while do-besters are ready to rank-order them (think Copenhagen Consensus here). Do-gooders give to what interests them, even if it prioritizes donkey sanctuaries over saving poor children's lives. Do-besters focus on the world's poorest countries, measure results, and make informed judgments. Which one do you want to be?

To support his call to do-bester philanthropy Friedman inserts a number of smart giving guidelines throughout the book.
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