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Ops & Asks

The Musings Of A Houston Fundraiser

  • Writer's pictureJuliana M. Weissbein CFRE

An In-Depth Exploration of Philanthropy and Justice: A Review of "Just Giving" by Rob Reich

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Rob Reich's "Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better" is a thought-provoking examination of the intricate relationship between philanthropy, democracy, and justice. In this meticulously researched and well-argued book, Reich delves into the paradoxes and challenges of philanthropy, offering readers a critical analysis of how philanthropy can either undermine or enhance democratic societies.

The central premise of "Just Giving" revolves around the tension between the role of philanthropy in supporting public goods and its ability to exert unchecked influence on society. Reich contends that philanthropy has become a powerful force in shaping public policy and societal outcomes, sometimes overshadowing the role of democratic processes and government institutions. He raises valid concerns about the impact of wealthy individuals and foundations in determining public policy, which can inadvertently perpetuate social inequalities.

One of the book's most compelling aspects is its historical context, as Reich takes readers on a journey through philanthropic practices, from the early days of the Rockefellers to the modern era of Silicon Valley's tech billionaires. This historical perspective helps readers understand the evolution of philanthropy and its changing dynamics within American society.

Reich's writing is clear and well-organized, making it accessible to a broad readership, from academics and policymakers to philanthropists and concerned citizens. He presents complex concepts in a manner that is easy to grasp, without oversimplifying the intricacies of the subject matter.

Reich's critique of the opaque nature of philanthropic institutions, their lack of accountability, and their potential to bypass democratic decision-making is well-founded. His proposals for reform, including increased transparency, donor intent, and community engagement, offer valuable insights for those interested in reshaping the philanthropic landscape to better serve society's needs.

However, the book's primary drawback is that it occasionally leans towards an academic tone, which might deter casual readers. While Reich effectively employs data, case studies, and references to support his arguments, the book can feel dense and overly theoretical at times.

In conclusion, "Just Giving" is an essential read for anyone interested in the intersection of philanthropy, democracy, and social justice. Rob Reich provides a comprehensive exploration of the ethical and practical dilemmas posed by contemporary philanthropy. Although the book might not be for everyone due to its academic style, its insights and recommendations are invaluable for those seeking a more just and equitable approach to philanthropy in our modern world. "Just Giving" invites readers to question the current state of philanthropy and challenges them to envision a more democratic and equitable future.


Juliana M. Weissbein, CFRE is a respected leader and decision influencer in regard to fundraising operations best practices. With over a decade of experience, Juliana thrives on professional growth, team success, measurable results, and inspiring fundraisers to utilize data-based strategies. Juliana currently serves as the Associate Director of Development Operations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is an AFP Global Board Member, AFP Global's 2019 Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser and is a member of the AFP Global Women's Impact Initiative. Juliana is immediate past chair of the AFP New York City chapter’s Emerging Leaders Committee and currently serves on the chapter’s board chairing their mentorship program. She resides in Houston, TX and never turns down a good kombucha.



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