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Topics in Philanthropy

Course Description

This course aims to introduce students to the critical role played by U.S. foundations on public policy issues and in American society generally.

The manner in which the U.S. tax laws encourage charitable giving has had a significant impact on civil society and social welfare. Philanthropy has not only been critical to the establishment of leading educational and cultural institutions and medical research and discovery, but also to numerous public policy advances such as public television, urban renewal, school vouchers and the modern human rights and women’s rights movements.

The course will touch on some of that history by way of a short introduction to institutionalized philanthropy, with particular emphasis on the foundations emerging in the first half of the 20th century from great American fortunes like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford. But the principal focus will be the public policy activities of contemporary foundations.

Proceeding from the legal and historical environment, the second class will examine number of key public policy approaches and strategies, including research, organizing and communications. The third class will be devoted to a more intensive case study of a particular philanthropy-supported policy , and the final session will cover emerging and contested issues in policy-focused philanthropy.