23 Best Philanthropy Books to Inspire You

POSTED ON Nov 7, 2023

P.J McNulty

Written by P.J McNulty

Home > Blog > Business > 23 Best Philanthropy Books to Inspire You

Philanthropy books play a crucial role in the world of charitable giving, serving as essential resources for anyone looking to make a positive impact on the issues and causes that mean the most to them.

As you explore key concepts from some of the most influential books on philanthropy, you'll find a wealth of ideas that could inform and shape your own book on the subject.


Why not make this guide your first step in writing a philanthropy book that makes a real difference?

Of all the topics you could write a book about, philanthropy is surely the one you’d feel most pride in. After all, it would serve as a lasting legacy of the positive change you sought to inspire.

Here's our selection of 23 influential philanthropy books:

1. “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age” by David Callahan

Philanthropy Books - The Givers: Wealth, Power, And Philanthropy In A New Gilded Age By David Callahan

In this insightful read, you'll delve into the world of elite philanthropists and their outsized influence on public policy and social change. Callahan provokes a discussion on the implications of this power, questioning how it shapes the very fabric of democracy.

Your book could take inspiration from this narrative to embark on a deep dive into the moral and ethical trade-offs of philanthropic dominance. By examining the democratization of giving, you could offer a counterpoint on how to recalibrate the scales of power for the greater good.

2. “The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty” by Peter Singer

Philanthropy Books - The Life You Can Save: How To Do Your Part To End World Poverty By Peter Singer

Singer presents a compelling argument that challenges you to consider your role in the fight against global poverty. He marries ethical imperatives with actionable strategies, pushing for individual accountability in the philanthropic sphere.

As you contemplate your own book, consider Singer's persuasive approach as a model for inspiring personal responsibility. Your writing could serve as a guide to help others navigate the complexities of ethical giving, encouraging a proactive stance on social issues.

3. “Philanthropy: From Aristotle to Zuckerberg” by Paul Vallely

Philanthropy Books - Philanthropy: From Aristotle To Zuckerberg By Paul Vallely

Vallely takes you on an expansive journey through the history of giving, illustrating how philanthropy has been interwoven with the progression of society. This book unpacks the philosophical and practical evolution of charitable acts.

Your book could draw on these historical insights to craft a narrative that contextualizes modern philanthropy within its rich legacy. Such a perspective could offer your readers a profound understanding of how past practices inform current giving trends.

4. “Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count” by Phil Buchanan

Philanthropy Books - Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy And Making Every Dollar Count By Phil Buchanan

Buchanan provides a no-nonsense guide to impactful giving, emphasizing strategic philanthropy over casual charity. He lays bare the complexities and challenges in ensuring that each contribution makes a tangible impact.

In crafting your book, Buchanan's pragmatism could be a blueprint for discussing the nuts and bolts of philanthropy. You could explore the methodology behind effective giving, equipping your readers with the tools to maximize their philanthropic footprint.

5. “The Philanthropy Revolution: How to Inspire Donors, Build Relationships and Make a Difference” by Lisa Greer

Philanthropy Books - The Philanthropy Revolution: How To Inspire Donors, Build Relationships And Make A Difference By Lisa Greer

Greer's manual redefines modern donor engagement, introducing fresh strategies for the digital age. She underscores the importance of relationships in securing sustained support for nonprofit endeavors.

This could be a cornerstone for your book's theme, focusing on the dynamic shift in donor relations. You might provide a playbook for non-profits to adapt to the evolving landscape of philanthropy, focusing on innovation and connection.

6. “Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better” by Rob Reich

Philanthropy Books - Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy And How It Can Do Better By Rob Reich

Reich offers a critical analysis of philanthropy's current state, probing its effects on democratic principles. He calls for a reformation of the philanthropic sector to better align with the needs of a democratic society.

Your book could take up this mantle, dissecting the relationship between philanthropy and democracy. There's room to explore how philanthropy can strengthen rather than undermine democratic ideals, providing a thoughtful discourse on equitable giving.

7. “The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan” by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon

Philanthropy Books - The Art Of Giving: Where The Soul Meets A Business Plan By Charles Bronfman And Jeffrey Solomon

This book blends the passion of charitable giving with strategic thinking, illustrating how to craft a giving plan that is both soulful and effective. The authors share insights into creating a philanthropic strategy that resonates on a personal level while achieving measurable results.

Drawing from Bronfman and Solomon, your book could serve as a workshop for the heart-driven giver seeking a structured approach to charity. You could offer a framework for readers to align their philanthropic desires with practical execution.

8. “The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World” by Joel L. Fleishman

Philanthropy Books - The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth Is Changing The World By Joel L. Fleishman

Fleishman sheds light on the powerful yet often unseen influence of American foundations. He reveals the inner workings and the substantial impact these entities have on global affairs.

In your book, consider how Fleishman's revelations about the underpinnings of American philanthropy could inform a discussion on the stewardship of wealth. Your readers could benefit from understanding how to navigate the complex world of foundational giving and its societal repercussions.

9. “Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results” by Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman

Philanthropy Books - Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Results By Thomas J. Tierney And Joel L. Fleishman

Tierney and Fleishman combine their expertise to lay out a framework for philanthropy that achieves real-world outcomes. They provide actionable advice for donors who wish to see their generosity translate into significant change.

Your book might expand on this concept, offering a step-by-step guide to results-driven philanthropy. It could dissect the elements that contribute to successful charitable endeavors, serving as a manual for aspiring philanthropists focused on efficacy.

10. “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism” by Arthur C. Brooks

Philanthropy Books - Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism By Arthur C. Brooks

Brooks examines the giving habits across the political spectrum, challenging preconceived notions about who gives and why. His analysis uncovers the complex motivations behind philanthropy and the societal factors that influence it.

A book of your own could take a cue from Brooks, exploring the psychology of giving. You might delve into how understanding donor motivations can lead to more effective and personalized approaches to fundraising and philanthropy.

11. “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance” by Edgar Villanueva

Philanthropy Books - Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom To Heal Divides And Restore Balance By Edgar Villanueva

Villanueva confronts the colonial dynamics at play in philanthropy, advocating for a radical restructuring of wealth distribution. He draws on indigenous wisdom to propose healing and equity in financial practices.

In your book, this perspective could serve as a catalyst for exploring how philanthropy can evolve beyond its colonial roots. You might inspire readers to adopt a more holistic and restorative approach to giving that seeks to heal and balance societal inequalities.

12. “Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy” by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey

Philanthropy Books - Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan For Smart Philanthropy By Paul Brest And Hal Harvey

Brest and Harvey present a meticulous strategy for philanthropy that focuses on achieving impactful results. They emphasize the importance of setting clear goals and employing methods that have proven effective.

Your work could build on their strategic approach, guiding readers through the process of creating a philanthropic plan that is both intentional and measurable. You could aim to empower philanthropists to be more thoughtful and deliberate in their giving.

13. “The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fund-Raising” by Jennifer McCrea, Jeffrey C. Walker, and Karl Weber

Philanthropy Books - The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools For Successful Fund-Raising” By Jennifer Mccrea, Jeffrey C. Walker, And Karl Weber

This book introduces an innovative, collaborative fundraising approach that aligns the interests of donors and nonprofits. The authors advocate for relationship-building as a key element to successful philanthropy.

Drawing on their approach, you could write a book that highlights the power of connection and community in philanthropy. It could offer strategies for building a network that supports and sustains generosity.

14. “Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference” by William MacAskill

Philanthropy Books - Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make A Difference By William Macaskill

MacAskill champions the philosophy of effective altruism, which uses evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to help others. He encourages a pragmatic yet empathetic approach to philanthropy.

Your book might harness the principles of effective altruism to challenge readers to critically assess their charitable actions. It could offer a rigorous framework for making decisions that maximize positive impact.

15. “The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically” by Peter Singer

Philanthropy Books - The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically By Peter Singer

Expanding on effective altruism, Singer invites readers to consider how their actions can contribute to a greater good. He challenges individuals to rethink their approach to philanthropy and life choices.

You could write a book that encourages a reflective journey on ethical living, potentially guiding readers through the process of aligning their values with their actions for a more meaningful impact on the world.

16. “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant

Philanthropy Books - Give And Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success By Adam Grant

Grant explores how giving can lead to greater personal and professional success. He presents evidence that generosity can be a powerful tool in achieving one's goals.

Inspired by Grant's findings, your book might delve into the symbiotic relationship between giving and receiving. You could explore stories of success rooted in generosity, offering a fresh perspective on the benefits of being a giver in a take-oriented world.

17. “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith

Philanthropy Books - The Wealth Of Nations By Adam Smith

While not a book on philanthropy per se, Smith's seminal work lays the groundwork for understanding the economic principles that underpin modern society, including the distribution of wealth.

Drawing from Smith's economic theories, your book could explore the role of philanthropy within the broader context of market economies. It could question how philanthropy and business can coalesce to serve the public good.

18. “The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back” by Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen

Philanthropy Books - The Power Of Half: One Family’s Decision To Stop Taking And Start Giving Back By Kevin Salwen And Hannah Salwen

The Salwens share their personal story of selling their home to give half the proceeds to charity, exemplifying how radical generosity can transform lives.

This narrative could inspire your book to focus on the life-changing power of significant, personal philanthropy. You might highlight how deep personal sacrifice can lead to profound social change.

19. “Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming” by Paul Hawken

Philanthropy Books - Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement In The World Came Into Being And Why No One Saw It Coming By Paul Hawken

Hawken documents the rise of a global movement of nonprofits and activists, painting a picture of a powerful collective force for societal transformation.

Your book could capture the spirit of this ‘blessed unrest', encouraging readers to join or support the myriad grassroots efforts that are shaping a better world. It could serve as a call to action to become part of something greater than oneself.

20. “Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy” by Peter Frumkin

Philanthropy Books - Strategic Giving: The Art And Science Of Philanthropy By Peter Frumkin

Frumkin provides a comprehensive analysis of the strategic elements that make philanthropy effective. He combines theory with practical advice to guide donors in their endeavors.

In your book, you might dissect the art and science behind Frumkin's strategies, presenting them in a way that resonates with both the head and the heart of potential philanthropists.

21. “The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World” by Jacqueline Novogratz

Philanthropy Books - The Blue Sweater: Bridging The Gap Between Rich And Poor In An Interconnected World By Jacqueline Novogratz

Novogratz shares her personal journey that highlights the interconnectedness of global poverty and the impact of philanthropy across cultures.

You could write a book that emphasizes the human stories behind philanthropy, showing how personal narratives can bridge the gap between donors and those in need, fostering a deeper understanding and empathy.

22. “Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity” by Mario Morino

Philanthropy Books - Leap Of Reason: Managing To Outcomes In An Era Of Scarcity By Mario Morino

Morino argues for the importance of outcome-based management in nonprofits, especially when resources are scarce, to ensure that philanthropic efforts truly make a difference.

Drawing on Morino's insights, your book could offer guidance on how to manage philanthropic endeavors with a focus on outcomes, providing a valuable resource for those looking to make the most of limited resources.

23. “The Charismatic Organization: Eight Ways to Grow a Nonprofit that Builds Buzz, Delights Donors, and Energizes Employees” by Shirley Sagawa and Deborah Jospin

Philanthropy Books - The Charismatic Organization: Eight Ways To Grow A Nonprofit That Builds Buzz, Delights Donors, And Energizes Employees By Shirley Sagawa And Deborah Jospin

Sagawa and Jospin lay out strategies for creating a nonprofit organization that excites and engages all stakeholders, from donors to employees.

Your book could be a guide for building a nonprofit with a magnetic pull, one that not only attracts resources but also fosters a passionate and dedicated community around a cause.

What is the role of philanthropy books?

Books are crucial tools in philanthropy for many reasons, including our choice of the following seven essential roles:

  • Knowledge sharing: They provide condensed insights from experts, giving you a comprehensive understanding of philanthropy quickly.
  • Historical context: Books put modern philanthropy in perspective by tracing its development over time, showing how past practices inform current ones.
  • Strategic guidance: They offer actionable advice on how to approach philanthropy effectively, based on proven methods.
  • Inspiration: Reading about successful philanthropic models can motivate you to develop and implement your own ideas.
  • Ethical frameworks: They discuss the moral implications of giving, prompting you to consider the broader impact of your philanthropic choices.
  • Community building: Books connect people with similar philanthropic interests, fostering networks of mutual support and learning.
  • Legacy creation: They encourage you to think about how your philanthropic actions can influence the future, inspiring others to continue your work.

Are you ready to write a philanthropy book?

Now that you’re armed with the understanding of how books inform and inspire philanthropic work, why not start writing your own?

Your book has the potential to educate and influence others who are interested in causes close to your heart.

To further support your journey into writing a philanthropy book, check out these essential guides:

I want to write a book, where do I start?
How much does it cost to self-publish a book
18 indie book publishers to work with

By sharing your knowledge, you could help shape effective giving strategies and encourage more people to participate in charitable activities.

If you've been inspired by the power of philanthropy, start writing your book and add to this important conversation.

Your efforts could make a real difference to the lives of those who need it most.


Liked this post? Share it with friends!
Related posts

Business, Non-Fiction

How to Get More Patients With a Book & Brand

Business, Writing

How to Use a Book to Get Leads for Your Business

Business, Writing

You Don’t Need to Hire a Business Book Ghostwriter – Here’s Why