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Here’s a look back at our most engaging commentary pieces of 2018.

Dear Readers,

As the year comes to a close, I'd like to invite you to join me in looking back at our "top 15" Philanthropy Daily commentary pieces of 2018. From posts that explore the true meaning of charity to essays that seek to determine real as opposed to statistical results in the nonprofit sphere, this collection represents our unique voice in the philanthropic community. 

I’m biased, but to me it’s the kind of commentary worth coming back to repeatedly. If you’re not a loyal Philanthropy Daily reader now, I hope you become one in the new year. (The best way of doing so is by signing up for our weekly newsletter.) Here’s a look back at our most engaging commentary articles of 2018.


Maca Olsen
Managing Editor


1. Philanthropy and rural life: what is being done, and what might be

The decline of rural America is being complacently accepted as a reasonable price to pay for the renewed dynamism of coastal cities. It's time that philanthropy takes note.


2. The dangers of arrogance in philanthropy

The same qualities that made us philanthropists in the first place start eroding as soon as we are propelled into a position of power.


3. Fundraising and figurative language

The words we use shape the way that we and our donors think about fundraising. It's fine to borrow ideas from other industries and institutions, but let's just make sure they're the ideas we want.


4. A call for intellectual humility

Essential lessons for philanthropic grantmakers from 20th century economist, F.A. Hayek.


5. Amid scandal, Silicon Valley Community Foundation should rethink priorities

A #MeToo moment for philanthropy reminds us of the dangers of globalism at the expense of local community.


6. We need fewer world leaders and more good neighbors

Higher education fosters what Wendell Berry has termed "boomers": individuals who "are always on the lookout for better career opportunities in better places." He contrasts this group to "stickers": those who root themselves in a place, and dedicate themselves to its well-being.


7. Credit unions: the not-for-profit structure that philanthropy should note

If foundations want to support bottom-up, inclusive initiatives, it's time they start thinking about duplicating small efforts rather than scaling up fewer large projects.


8. Learning from the extraordinary life of Ruth Pfau
Philanthropists and foundation leaders would do well to note that Ruth Pfau's extraordinary work did not arise from a careful "strategic" plan, but from a disposition of love and eager response to the needs she saw before her.


9. Is philanthropy becoming the exclusive preserve of the very wealthy?

Fewer people of modest, average, and above-average means are giving to charity, while a growing percentage of giving comes from the ultra wealthy. This trend, if left unchecked, could fundamentally change the nature of America. 


10. Nonprofits need clarity, not jargon

Organizations cavalierly using feel-good language weaken their contributions to civil society because when their words cease to mean anything, so do they.


11. A renaissance of localism

The movement, once as small as the things it appreciates, is finding traction in our frenzied age.


12. Giving in a "reputation age"

If we're moving from an 'information age' to a 'reputation age,' what are the implications for funding public discourse?


13. Fundraising as trust-building

Given the decline of trust in American society, particularly trust in institutions, it's refreshing to think of fundraising as a profession with a higher calling.


14. Universities should stop acting like corporations

If colleges understand themselves to be selling a consumer product, the marketplace will determine their identity.


15. Funders that understand regional differences are better suited to help

Strong, rooted communities are as likely to be found in Baltimore as in Batavia. Donors will be more effective if they have a balanced view that includes our country’s strengths as well as its weaknesses.


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