With more Americans living below the poverty line than at any other time since the Census Bureau began to keep track—and government support for many social services declining—some experts are taking a second look at where the country's philanthropic dollars are going, according to a special giving section in The New York Times.
Although giving rose slightly last year, donations to social services declined by 6.6 percent, and many of the wealthiest donors have focused their giving on projects like museums, hospital wings, and influencing public policy and political campaigns.
Philanthropy has been "silent about the depths of the problems of homelessness, joblessness, foreclosure, hunger," says Emmett D. Carson, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. "People are starting to believe that philanthropy is irrelevant to the core needs of their communities."
Gary Michelson, a billionaire orthopedic surgeon who started the Found Animals Foundation, which helps abandoned and stray animals, says that giving to food banks and homeless shelters is not fulfilling. “Early on what I learned was that, yes, you can write checks and mail them off—just don’t expect a lot for that."
The Times's giving section also features articles on Mark Zuckerberg's gift to the Newark, N.J., school system; volunteering as an increasingly a helpful credential on resumes; the Family Dollar retail mogul Leon Levine's philanthropy; and efforts by charities and individuals to fight hunger, promote the arts, and aid veterans.