The darker side of philanthropy

How self-interest and incompetence can overcome a love of mankind and serve the public interest

Authored by: David Horton Smith , Sharon Eng , Kelly Albertson

The Routledge Companion to Philanthropy

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415783255
eBook ISBN: 9781315740324
Adobe ISBN: 9781317579717


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Philanthropy has a ‘dark side’ or ‘darker side’, just like any other individual or collective human activity. Smith (2016) argues that the ‘angelic’ nonprofit sector, including foundations and other charitable organizations, can be a site of deviance, crime, and ethical misconduct. The underlying reason is simple: as well as being able to act from altruism and philanthropic concerns, humans, in any context, organized or informal, often act out of egotism and self-interest. Humans can also create dysfunctions or negative outcomes through ignorance and incompetence as unintended consequences of their actions.

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