Book Review: The Palgrave Handbook of Global Philanthropy

This engaging tome is a deep mine of data, says Stephen Cook, editor of Third Sector

In Russia, "the new non-profit regime operates in the challenging conditions of low trust and unshaped philanthropic infrastructure", while in South Korea private schools and hospitals founded in the 19th century by western missionaries were the forerunners of the modern non-profit sector.

These are two snippets from the deep mine of information to be found in this well-organised and referenced book, written by 55 academics, about the current state of giving in 26 countries. Some 650-page tomes make your heart sink, but not this one: it works both as reference and – for sector buffs – as engaging stuff.

Its appeal comes partly because the chapters on each country follow the same headings – history, regulation, culture and so on – allowing you to compare and contrast with ease. Developed western nations predominate, but there are also chapters on Vietnam, Egypt and Lebanon. The absence of African or South American countries is a slight frustration.

Some of the most interesting articles come in a final "themes and findings" section, which covers international evidence on subjects such as the effect of fiscal incentives or religion. One of these, co-authored by Beth Breeze of the University of Kent, is about the increasing global role of fundraising. The UK might currently take note of two of its conclusions: that there will be a need to build and maintain trust; and that fundraisers will need to depend less on short-term methods.

It warns: "Just one experience of bad practice and fraud – even if experienced second hand through the media or peers – can undermine the trust and confidence of those who might otherwise have been willing to give."

The Palgrave Handbook of Global Philanthropy, edited by Pamala Wiepking and Femida Handy, Palgrave Macmillan, £150 hardback

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