Will a philanthropic celtic tiger roar?

Mike spoke at a conference in Dubin yesterday, organised by the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group, on a panel with John Healy, the former head of Atlantic Philanthropies (whose strategic partnership with the government to support university research in Ireland we describe in the book).

Despite a strong Irish charitable tradition, major philanthropy has not kept pace with the booming ‘celtic tiger’ economy over the last 10 years.  There was some good news for the gathered representatives of leading nonprofits, when the Minister responsible for charity affairs, John Curran TD, gave a strong endorsement to promoting giving.  But will the economic crisis stifle further development in Irish philanthropy?

John was upbeat – predicting a doubling of giving over the next 5 years, if the philanthropic sector can lay the groundwork by improving the infrastructure so that donors are better supported, talking more about outcomes and impact (the things that really matter to philanthrocapitalists) and changing public attitudes to the rich, which tends to default to cynicism. (John, who spoke very kindly about the book, noted that we had acknowledged this problem by changing the subtitle for the European edition that comes out on 17 November to ‘How the rich can save the world and why we should let them‘.)

John argued that further tax breaks for giving are not the way to get more rich people to give – the case for philanthropy should be that the rich can make a difference.  We think he’s right – it’s the desire to solve problems rather than avoid taxes that really motivates today’s philanthrocapitalists.  And with the government budget squeezed in Ireland like everywhere else, there will be plenty of opportunities for the celtic billionaires to play their part in saving the world.  If we let them!