The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age


While media attention focuses on famous philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Charles Koch, thousands of donors are at work below the radar promoting a wide range of causes. It’s an elite that works behind the scenes on education, the environment, science, LGBT rights, and many other issues--with deep impact on government policy.

But who are these people? What do they care about? Why do they give?

David Callahan’s new book The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, is an investigation of a power shift in American society that has implications for us all. Callahan charts the rise of these new power players and the ways they are converting the fortunes of a second Gilded Age into influence. In his book, Callahan foresees a world in which private donors may be more influential than elected public officials, where philanthropists become the new social engineers of our time, with policymaking fingerprints that can be hard to see.

Please join New America’s Political Reform program, author David Callahan, and Kristin A. Goss for a conversation about how and why the world of elite philanthropists is so secretive, and how these people are quietly wielding ever more power to shape American life in ways both good and bad. While today’s new philanthropy is exciting and inspiring, it is also scary and feels profoundly undemocratic. Philanthropy as a power center can push ordinary Americans further to the margins of civic life in an era when so many people already feel shoved aside by elites and the wealthy.

Lunch will be served and copies of the book will be available for purchase.


David Callahan 
Founder and Editor, Inside Philanthropy 
Author, The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age

Kristin A. Goss
Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, Duke University 
Director, Duke in DC 


Mark Schmitt 
Director, Political Reform program, New America