Philanthropy in America: A History

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.


About Marty Martin, JD MPA

Marty Martin, JD MPA, Martin Law Firm, Raleigh, North Carolina, provides legal, tax, and training services related to nonprofit, tax-exempt, and social enterprise organizations serving local, regional, state, national, and international constituencies. He works with them throughout their lifecycle including start up, operations and management, board governance, merger, and closing down. He is a BoardSource Certified Consultant and Governance Trainer and CCAT Certified Facilitator. He has served as a senior an instructor with the Duke Nonprofit Management, Intensive, and Advanced Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership programs. Martin served for three years on the IRS Advisory Committee for Tax Exempt and Government Entities ("ACT"). He was awarded the IRS TEGE Commissioner's Award which "is the highest honor of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, and the highest honor we can personally bestow" for his service. He received a Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree with a concentration in managing nonprofit and public sector organizations from the Harvard Kennedy School and Juris Doctorate (JD) degree from Western New England University School of Law. He completed advanced training in nonprofit organizations from: Harvard Business School's Initiative on Social Enterprise; Harvard Kennedy School's Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations; Duke University's Nonprofit Management Program; University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business; Center for Creative Leadership; BoardSource; and the TCC Group.
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