The Business of Giving: The theory and practice of philanthropy, grantmaking and social investment

Michael Alberg-Seberich

The Business of GivingYou can read Peter Grant’s book as a series of university lectures on the trade of giving or you can use it – the author suggests both options – as a reference book in the day-to-day work of a grantmaker. This is definitely how I will use it. It will be added to a collection of titles that I need frequently in my work, such as Joel Orosz’s The Insider’s Guide to Grantmaking – a book Grant refers to several times – or Gregor von Schnurbein and Karsten Timmer’s management handbook for grantmaking foundations Die Förderstiftung: Strategie – Führung – Management.

The Business of Giving, as the title already implies, considers social investing, giving or grantmaking as a profession. It is a solid contribution to the professionalization of the field. Grant starts out with ‘A Short History of Philanthropy’ (Chapter 2), defines giving as a business process (1 Risk Management, 2 Operations Management, 3 Performance Management) and then explores the actual management of social investments. He steers the reader through a variety of opinions and schools of thought on all these issues.

As an academic or student you will enjoy the fact that Grant explores the theory around the management of giving. In the chapter ‘Types and Styles of Social Investment’, you will find an in-depth discussion of how donors and their various strategies of giving can be classified. This discussion includes recent trends in the world of social investment such as social impact bonds and impact investing. Another example of this kind of exploration is the chapter on performance management. It includes a concise tour de raison of the various ways of measuring impact, their advantages and disadvantages.

As a grant manager in a large foundation, a social investment fund or a government agency, you will especially appreciate the four chapters on the actual management of social investments. First, the author shows how complex the actual work on the ground of grantmakers can be. You will find many arguments as to why a professionalization of the field is good. Second, he describes the various tools that can be used in these processes. Some of the checklists – for instance for annual review telephone interviews with grantees – can be used right away.

Next Book review to read

Blueprint 2012

Charles Erkelens