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$5 Million Grant Studies Philanthropy

john tempelton foundation
IMG: via the John Tempelton Foundation

A grant of $5 million has been awarded to the Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI) by the John Templeton Foundation to study and explore the motives behind philanthropy. SPI is a collaborative effort of three colleges: the University of Wisconsin—Madison, the University of Chicago, and Georgia State.

SPI is a “research and outreach project that utilizes rigorous quantitative methods and partnerships with the philanthropic community to explore the motivations behind charitable giving.” SPI has three “Big Questions” it is currently exploring:

1) Why do people give?

2) How do people give across the lifecycle and across cultures?

3) How to increase philanthropy?

By exploring what makes people give to philanthropy, SPI hopes to discover which strategies work best or can be developed to encourage more giving. SPI has already been working on developing theories and experimenting with methodologies, and the $5 million grant from John Templeton will help them continue to delve into what social preferences makes people give. They then hope to apply this knowledge and share it with practitioners and policymakers interested in philanthropy.

“In this era of tight federal and state resources, philanthropy is more important than ever in meeting societal needs, preserving community services and expanding public outreach and engagement,” said Anya Samak of UW-Madison and SPI.

“Even in the recent recession, donors gave over $300 billion to U.S. philanthropic organizations in 2009,” she added. “These organizations often lack hard data on giving and rely on rules of thumb when spending $2 billion on development activities annually.”