6 min read

Join us in taking a look back at our best articles from 2019.

Dear Reader,

Philanthropy Daily exists to strengthen civil society. Today our civil associations are crumbling and we are lonelier than ever. Not only do our politics suffer as a result, but we are less happy and less healthy.

By commenting and reporting on the nonprofit world—and offering high-level, actionable advice for professional fundraisers—Philanthropy Daily seeks to stand against the loneliness that creeps in through a thinning social fabric. Our goal is to support the “little platoons” of civil society by thinking through what healthy philanthropy looks like and by supporting fundraisers in their work.

This was an interesting year for the nonprofit community with several important books released (including The Forgotten Foundations of Fundraising by our publisher, Jeremy Beer), the first year of tax statements after the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and the deaths of several prominent American philanthropists.

At the end of each year we collect our favorite articles from the year into a single post. This year I broke it down by category.

First, our “Practicalities,” which offer useful, professional advice for fundraisers and donors. It’s hard to pick the best ones, but these five cover a range and can help almost any development professional. I’d love to hear if you found these useful—or if you have any other topics that you would like us to cover.

I’ve been gratified to have several strangers this past year tell me that Philanthropy Daily provides the best commentary on the nonprofit community that they know of. These five Opinion pieces below represent what we’re about here at Philanthropy Daily, providing some thoughtful reflection on philanthropy and civil society. I think these pieces are the best of the best.

We also had several book reviews in 2019, so I picked my favorite five reviews. Not all of these books are new in 2019, but the reviews are new, and the books remain important and valuable for anyone interested in philanthropy and fundraising.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t draw attention to the articles we posted about philanthropists who passed away in 2019: John Bogle, Conrad Hilton, David Koch, and T. Boone Pickens. Of course, all Americans who support causes they care about are philanthropists worthy of recognition, but these four prominent individuals affected philanthropy in profound—and sometimes controversial—ways.

Thank you for being a Philanthropy Daily reader. If you’re not a regular yet, I hope these articles will draw you back again. Of course, the best way to stay on top of our work is to sign up for our weekly newsletter: one email on Friday morning with our top articles from that week.

Lastly, please be in touch. Shoot me a note if there is some area of fundraising you’d like us to cover or any topic or issue in the philanthrosphere that we’ve not addressed. You can email me at austin@philanthropydaily.com.

Many thanks and a happy new year,

Austin Detwiler, Managing Editor


1. Fundraising and fairy tales: the importance of storytelling

storytelling and fundraising for philanthropyStorytelling is essential for good fundraising. Here’s why it matters and how  to do it well. The first in a three-part series.

Honorable mention: parts two and three in this series.

2. Five things to know ahead of your next donor meeting

donor meeting, major gift fundraisingGoing into a donor meeting unprepared is the surest way to secure a bad outcome. Here are some essential tips for preparing a donor meeting.

3. Five tips for nonprofit leaders to plan for proactive fundraising

Too often fundraising is reactive rather than proactive, hindering growth and creating a frenzied and hectic development culture. Take some time at the beginning of the year to set goals, plans, and strategies.

4. How to build and use a gift chart for fundraising strategy

gift charting for philanthropy and fundraisingSuccess in fundraising depends upon setting realistic goals and crafting an actionable strategy. A gift chart can guide you through setting the goals and putting a strategy into action. Here’s how to build one.

5. Christmas in September: why your year-end campaign starts now

end of year giving for relational philanthropyAmerican Philanthropic and Philanthropy Daily convened fundraisers and nonprofit leaders in Philadelphia for an evening conversation on end-of-year fundraising. Here is a summary of the conversation.


1. The state of our neighborhood communities is not strong

A recent survey reveals that Americans are expecting too little from their communities and too much from a distant central power.

2. Philanthropy should be localist

A localist viewpoint can help give shape and purpose to our philanthropic giving.

3. Dangers of abstraction: when we prefer "possible realities" to "real possibilities"

Philanthropists would do best not to aspire to the grandeur of abstractions. Instead of pouring their energies into utopian pursuits, they should focus on what is practicable and realistic.

4. The higher calling of fundraising

Several authors reflect on the value of nonprofit fundraising as a vocation and its role in strengthening our democracy. They also also offer important practical tips for fundraising professionals.

5. Crowdfunding and contingency: does storytelling distract from effective giving?

storytelling for philanthropy and fundraisingIn a recent piece in the New Yorker, Nathan Heller worries that GoFundMe exacerbates the problem of using stories to exploit the emotions in order to generate donations—rather than relying on more data-driven giving.

Book Reviews

1. Just Justice?

Rob Reich’s book “Just Giving” is thoughtful and serious. But philanthropy has more varied aims than justice, and the pluralism he celebrates can only be fully honored when we allow philanthropists to pursue their own highest ideals.

2. A book for people who hate these kinds of books

Reviewing Jeremy Beer and Jeff Cain’s “The Forgotten Foundations of Fundraising: Practical Advice and Contrarian Wisdom for Nonprofit Leaders.”

3. A look at Anand Giridharadas' Winners Take All

Giridharadas prescribes the replacement of one center of power for another. Where does that leave civil society?

4. Nudging, Incentivizing, and Penalizing: a review of Money Well Spent

strategic philanthropy and social change


In “Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy” authors Paul Brest and Hal Harvey offer a vision of strategic philanthropy that is more concerned with social change than selfless love.

5. Why some places thrive while others collapse

Reviewing Timothy P. Carney’s “Alienated America.”

In memoriam

1. John Bogle, boring philanthropist

Philanthropists should learn from the late John Bogle’s humility and localism. Because of his selfless business decisions, we had one less billionaire philanthropist and millions more middle-class givers spread throughout the world.

2. Barron Hilton dies age 91, leaving his fortune to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Prior to his death, Barron Hilton and the Hilton Foundation took measures to protect Conrad Hilton’s donor intent. These are important measures for ensuring donor intent, and time will tell the foundation board’s commitment to these measures.

3. Billionaire philanthropist, David Koch, dies at 79

david koch philanthropist dies at 79David Koch’s conservative and libertarian giving drew much praise and much criticism during his life. It is embarrassing, however, to see celebrations of his passing on the day of his death.

Our friends at the Giving Review blog have compiled a collection of obituaries and articles on David Koch.

4. T. Boone Pickens dies at 91, and the response is encouraging

As the public and the media respond to the passing of T. Boone Pickens, it is interesting to reflect on his broad and generous giving, and how this conduces to a healthy civil society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *