Review by John Harvey
The Palgrave Handbook of Global Philanthropy calls itself a ‘comprehensive reference guide to the practice of philanthropy’. This description is perhaps not quite on the mark: while certainly comprehensive, the book focuses principally on individual giving, leaving out private institutional giving and other forms of philanthropic behaviour. As a study of non-profit sectors around the world and individual giving to them, though, the work is superb, featuring in-depth looks at donor behaviour in 25 individual countries and the Caribbean region and solid analysis of the field at the global level.
In the introductory chapter, the editors note that, while much is known about individual motivations for philanthropic donations, much less is known about how the context in which people live influences their giving. In particular, the editors hope the handbook will enable a better understanding of how differences in government, fiscal and legal policies for philanthropic actors and non-profits shape giving. Ultimately, the editors’ goal is to deepen understanding of how to shape a society with the best conditions for giving. While I’m not sure the handbook altogether achieves this ambitious goal, it most certainly makes an important contribution to it.
The bulk of the handbook comprises chapters focused on the individual countries, each beginning with a historical overview of philanthropy in that country. These chapters demonstrate the deep, rich and diverse history of philanthropy across the globe. Most readers will be familiar with the Anglo-American narrative on organized philanthropy; how refreshing to read about traditions in Russia, Lebanon, Bulgaria and elsewhere.