Both philanthropy and the public good often get a pass because we assume they are intrinsically positive. Indeed, philanthropists get mileage out of the common assumption that they contribute their money to advance a collective idealized notion of the public good. Yet, we also know that debates about what is the good, who is our neighbor, and what is good for the public has lasted for centuries. While deeply ethical and religious questions, the professionalization of philanthropy and public policy have framed the bounds of the public good more through the bureaucratization of giving and development than to ethical foundation on which such actions are based and can be evaluated. Questions of ethical and religious foundation and evaluation are rooted in the humanities and made empirical with the benefit of social science.


photo of david kingDavid King; Lake Institute on Faith and Giving; Philanthropy; IUPUI;



photo of raymond haberski jrRaymond Haberski Jr.; History/American Studies; Liberal Arts; IUPUI;




Event Schedule:




Edgar Villanueva

Author of Decolonizing Wealth


Thursday, January 30th 2020 12-1:30 PM

IUPUI campus, Ashby Browsing Room in the Payton Philanthropic Studies Library

Villanueva will be discussing the nature of philanthropy, particularly focused on how institutions that control access to money can better serve and partner with communities to work for social justice. From his own experience working in professional philanthropy and as a leader within indigenous communities, Villanueva challenges many accepted philanthropic practices in their work for the “public good.”   

In preparation for the seminar, Edgar suggested we read this short Stanford Social Innovation Review article that outlines the key arguments he is making in his work.



Rob Reich

Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for Ethics in Society, and Co-Director of the Center on Philosophy and Civil Society, Stanford University


Thursday December 5th 12-1:30 PM

IUPUI Campus, University Hall, Room 1006

Reich will be in conversation with us around the themes of his new book, Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better (Princeton, 2018). His book draws together many of the main themes we have been discussing over the past year together: Is there any role for philanthropy to play in a democracy? If so, what might that particular role be? How can models of philanthropy align with theories of justice amidst growing inequality?  

RSVP to for  lunch count.



"The Fabric of Character: A Wise Giver's Guide to Renewing our Social and Moral Landscape"

Anne Snyder; Author and Editor-in-Chief of Comment Magazine


Thursday Sept. 26th 12:00-1:30 PM

IUPUI Campus, University Hall, Room 1006

Anne Snyder will speak about the role individual character plays in shaping philanthropic interests and how institutions that reflect such character can help the public good.

Since 2016, Snyder has directed The Philanthropy Roundtable‘s Character Initiative, a program that seeks to help American foundations and business leaders strengthen “the middle ring” of morally formative institutions. She is also a Fellow at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, a Houston-based think tank that explores how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens, and a Senior Fellow at The Trinity Forum. From 2014 to 2017 Anne worked for Laity Lodge and the H.E. Butt Family Foundation in Texas, and before that she worked at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, World Affairs Journal and The New York Times. She holds a Master’s degree in journalism from Georgetown University and a B.A. in philosophy and international relations from Wheaton College (IL). Anne serves as a trustee for the Center for Public Justice, the Hyde Park Institute, and the Colangelo Carpenter Innovation Center, and as an advisor to Sea Dog Theater. She has published widely, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, City Journal, Philanthropy Magazine, The Orange County Register, Houston Business Journal and elsewhere.

Please RSVP to for lunch count.


Boundaries of Philanthropy

Michael Moody; Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University

Wednesday May 15th 2019 12:00-1:30 PM



Philanthropy in History and Action

Ajay K. Mehrotra, Professor of Law at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law


Thursday April 18th 2019 12:00-1:30 PM

IUPUI Campus, University Hall, Room 5023

Mehrotra will speak on questions of taxation, charitable giving, and the best way to support the development of the public good.  

Please RSVP to David King ( so reading materials can be provided and lunch ordered.



Introduction to seminar and definition of terms


Thursday March 21st 2019 12:00-1:30 PM

IUPUI Campus, University Library, Ashby Browsing Room

Please RSVP to David King ( so reading materials can be provided (Bruce Sievers’ article, “Philanthropy’s Role in Liberal Democracy,” ).  Lunch will be served.