Nonprofit clients generally only want to know what they can or cannot do. They seldom ask about the history which often explains current nonprofit laws and practices. However, understanding the history of modern philanthropy is invaluable for providing context.
Philanthropy in America: A History provides the nonprofit practitioner with a history and framework for how American philanthropy evolved during the 20th century. Written by Olivier Zunz who is the Commonwealth Professor of History at the University of Virginia, the book covers many of the major themes, issues, and personalities shaping this sector as philanthropy emerged from its historical roots in religious and individually based philanthropy to encompass the sector’s now familiar corporate structure and related tax law.
Philanthropy and the nonprofit sector contribute daily to development of democratic ideals at home and abroad. Zunz’s book helps the reader to appreciate how the interaction among and the impact of personalities, policies, and practices affect modern philanthropy. The impact over time of competing philosophies and ideas provides a perspective for today’s evolving political and cultural discussions. While the book’s focus is on the emergence of the American philanthropic experience, Zunz also addresses how American practices have shaped philanthropy internationally.
For the practitioner interested in an easy to read history of modern philanthropy, Philanthropy in America: A History by Olivier Zunz provides a source to better understand the vibrant nonprofit sector and a useful reference for one’s library.