In the USA, the philanthropic sector is most advanced. At roughly $290 billion per year it is several times the size of the US Aid budget. 11 new foundations and over 100 non-profits are created every day. Even in the UK the amount given is bigger than many departmental budgets; and in Asia and the Middle East there is a huge growth in the sector which though still way behind the US, now runs into billions of dollars every year.
The work these philanthropic institutions do is crucial precisely because of the limits of government. They can’t and shouldn’t substitute for things only government can do. But that still leaves a pretty big range of activity and though only government or legislatures can pass laws, one huge lesson we’re learning from governments around the world is that the private and philanthropic sectors or partnerships between them and government, are often more efficient ways to get government programmes done.
This is because the best philanthropy is not just about giving money but giving leadership. The best philanthropists are those who bring the talents that made them successful into their charitable work. Those talents — determination, drive, refusal to accept the conventional ways of doing things — are just what some of the world’s problems need.
An interesting (and far-reaching) question for today: where does the public sector end and the private one begin, and vice versa? Nonprofits, both global and local, can be so vital to our communities because they can act in fast and direct response to what is happening that hour, that day. Government often does not have that capacity. But in an ideal world, would it? Would you like to see a closer relationship between the sectors or a more distinct one? And what are they ways that that relationship could deepen and improve?