This is an Archived Program

This page describes a program that is no longer active.

The Philanthropy Program

The Philanthropy Program


What is the deepest meaning of philanthropy, and how does it affect giving and social change? How could philanthropic relationships be changed to reflect our interconnection and enhance our common work?

The Program on Philanthropy explored ways to deepen and integrate what philanthropists value most in their inner lives with what they value most in their philanthropic work.

By fostering dialogues on philanthropy and the inner life, providing opportunities for contemplation and reflection with colleagues, convening workshops and gatherings and publishing materials to support ongoing conversations on these issues, we worked to inspire the philanthropic community and catalyze more effective and just solutions for society's most critical problems.



During the early 1990's, some members of the philanthropic community began to discuss how those involved in philanthropy might better address the complex economic, political, environmental and social challenges facing society at all levels. They realized that cultivating more reflective responses --gleaned from various forms of contemplative practice personally and professionally--could potentially lead to long-term and sustainable changes. To further explore what this might mean, the first gathering on "Spirituality and Philanthropy" was held in 1995. Since that time, there have been two annual gatherings, and the number of those interested in attending has grown from 25 to over 100 donors and institutional grantmakers. Other activities which have sprung from those early conversations include:

  • Two annual retreats on "the Giver and the Gift" for foundation executives have been held at the Fetzer Institute.
  • Discussions on the contemplative mind and philanthropy as well as meditation circles have become part of some programs sponsored by the Council on Foundations, other national conferences for foundation representatives and meetings in the Independent Sector.
  • Regional grantmakers have begun to host forums in this area of interest.
  • Individual donors have created an informal giving circle on this subject.
  • Several papers have been written on philanthropy in relation to the inner life and contemplative practice. Currently available online are Mirabai Bush's Philanthropy & The Inner Life: The Contemplative Contribution and Rob Lehman's The Heart of Philanthropy.
  • In January 2004, we held a retreat for those working in Philanthropy. Read a brief summary of the retreat, Philanthropy & the Inner Life: Resources for Difficult Times.


Reports & Recommended Reading

Philanthropy & The Inner Life: Resources for Difficult Times
Report on the 2004 Philanthropy Retreat
Navigating the Ocean of Philanthropy and the Inner Life: Spirit-Infused Philanthropy
A report on the December 2000 Philanthropy Gathering
Philanthropy & the Inner Life: The Contemplative Contribution
by Mirabai Bush, Founding Director, The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
The Heart of Philanthropy
by Rob Lehman, President Emeritus, Fetzer Institute
Inspired Philanthropy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan
by Tracy Gary and Melissa Kohner