New philanthropy leaders ‘falling short on emotional intelligence and humility’, says Philanthrocapitalism author 


Shafi Musaddique


Philanthropists entering the sector are falling short on “emotional intelligence and humility,” while avoiding “the sort of high stakes risktaking they would embrace routinely in business,” according to Matthew Bishop, co-author of ‘Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World’. 

Writing in the 2023 Annual Review of South African Philanthropy report, Bishop says philanthropy leaders are free, by choice, “to take greater risks and adopt a long-term approach”.  

The author criticised what he describes as a lack of collaborative thinking and a lack of appetite on learning from mistakes.

“At the same time, philanthropists are frequently surrounded by staff (surprisingly often, friends from pre-wealthy days) who do all they can to preserve their cosy sinecures, including by blocking access to more competent rivals with better ideas, and by constantly flattering their boss,” said Bishop. 

“In practice, however, philanthropy has so far fallen short of what Michael Green and I had hoped it would achieve in the 15 years since Philanthrocapitalism was published. If humanity is to solve present climate and nature crises and achieve the sort of widespread thriving envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2015, philanthropy must do much better in Africa and in the rest of the world.” 

He also added that both individual wealthy philanthropists and organisations have a “historically unprecedented chance to lead impactfully in ways that others in government, business and civil society often cannot” in what has been described as a critical juncture in time. 

Bishop argues that a pledge by the world’s wealthiest to give away a portion of their wealth has not materialised into a big increase “in actual giving”.  

“Indeed, those who have signed the pledge have not become relatively more generous – their fortunes have increased by far more than their giving. In other words, signatories are typically much richer now than when they promised to give away half their wealth.” 

The Giving Pledge was established by US philanthropists Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and his then-wife Melinda in 2010, as a promise by multi-billionaires to give away at least half of their fortunes by the end of their lives.  

The pledge now has more than 200 of the world’s billionaires as signatories, including four from Africa: Mo Ibrahim from Sudan; Patrice and Precious Motsepe from South Africa; Mohammed Dewji of Tanzania; and Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa of Zimbabwe.  

The Annual Review of South African Philanthropy 2023 reports that Non-profit organisations (NPOs) were the most supported beneficiary type last year.  

It credits technology as playing a key role in the region for both fundraising and connecting networks.  

A large proportion of giving in South Africa continues to focus on health, particularly as the country continues to reel from the effects of the Covid pandemic. 

Shafi Musaddique is news editor at Alliance magazine.

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