Today’s image of philanthropy is taken from the blog of Occam Advisors and geared towards critics of ‘old’ philanthropy:
“Criticizing old-line philanthropy is like criticizing the post office, or Amtrak or academic tenure or that album Metallica made with Lou Reed. Most of us already agree with what you are saying, so saying it out loud isn’t a courageous act, and simply saying it is not actually a step toward correcting it. So go do something about it. Only, that isn’t as easy as it looks.”

The blog goes on to highlight three wider issues with freshly minted philanthropists:

  • Making big proclamations and/or commitments before actually doing anything
  • Mixing up contempt for existing philanthropic institutions with a contempt for organization-building and philanthropy as a discipline
  • Placing the philanthropist at the center of the narrative of social change

Followed by somewhat blunt recommendations for the novice philanthropist:

  • Shut up
  • Start small
  • Build a world-class organisation
  • Spend 50% of your time on philanthropy, or spend 0.5% of your time on it. Please don’t spend 5% of your time [i.e. get involved, or don’t, don’t just do it occassionally]
  • Invest in organisations, not ideas [philanthropy being not necessarily about having new ideas]
  • Be as externally consistent as possible (internally too if possible) [i.e. don’t be a philanthropic butterfly that flutters around]
  • Speak up when you have experience to share

Maloney, P. (2015), You Are Not the Hero of This Story: How not to waste your first five years as a philanthropist, 11th April,


Drawing on some of the findings from our ‘Images of Philanthropy’ Initiative, each entry in this accompanying blog series introduces one image that has been put forward in an academic or non-academic context to depict or characterise an aspect of philanthropy in its different forms and expressions.

For further information about the ‘Images of Philanthropy’ Initiative, please contact Dr Tobias Jung.