As inequality has grown in the United States, our nation's charitable system is in danger of becoming a taxpayer-subsidized platform of private power for the ultra-wealthy. This poses risks to the independent nonprofit sector and our society as a whole.
Since our first edition of Gilded Giving 2016: Top Heavy Philanthropy in Age of Extreme Inequality, we have shown that charities are receiving shrinking amounts of revenue from donors at lower- and middle-income levels, and that they are more reliant on larger donations from smaller numbers of wealthy donors. And we have shown that wealthy donors tend to pour their dollars into foundations and donor-advised funds — charitable intermediary vehicles they control — rather than into public operating charities (i.e. active nonprofits on the ground).
This updated edition of Gilded Giving describes the extent of the capture of our charitable sector by the wealthy, the risks this poses, and how it has been exacerbated by the pandemic and other external factors. We also propose strong reforms that would reverse these trends and realign our charitable system to serve the public interest.