Pablo Eisenberg on Philanthropic Scrooges

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December 10, 2010; Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy | The charitable spirit that one might expect to see this holiday season doesn’t seem to have materialized, either in government or in philanthropy, according to Pablo Eisenberg writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

If there ever was a time to give, it is now.

The unemployment rate is edging toward 10 percent and the numbers of homeless and hungry have escalated sharply. “The number of American households using food pantries rose by 44 percent from 2007 to 2009, with 5.6 million households seeking help,” according to Eisenberg. And while state lawmakers—hamstrung by blown budgets—ought to be channeling more money to the needy, so too should wealthy donors and foundations.

“Yet,” says Eisenberg of foundations, “they are sitting by idly, doing little or nothing to help stem the crisis afflicting our nonprofits and civil society, especially the millions of disadvantaged people they serve.”

Eisenberg admonishes foundations to give a bigger share of their assets away, and if they don’t, he says, Congress should step in and compel them to give more. “Distributing 6, 7, or 8 percent in grants annually will not cause foundations to run out of money and shut down. But not giving more will invariably hurt nonprofits and cause some of them to close,” Eisenberg says.

Eisenberg also excoriates Warren Buffet, Eli Broad, the Gates’ and others—despite their overall philanthropic largesse—for not giving more to aid the hungry and homeless in America. He warns that if foundations, government and the wealthy don’t do more, America will no longer be able to claim to be the most charitable nation in the world. In fact, Eisenberg says, if things don’t change “America’s philanthropists will turn out to be the Scrooges of Christmas past.”—Aaron Lester