David Blackburn

The age of philanthropy

The age of philanthropy
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Cameron’s Big Society Blitzkreig is underway, and he says that he hopes to ‘foster a new culture of voluntarism, of philanthropy and social action’. So far so good. As Fraser noted yesterday, there is a long and generous history of philanthropy in Britain; success will depend on the government transforming a culture of private charity into one of community charity.

Collective action is hard to instil, not least when money is tight. Some projects and schemes will be favoured over others and many people will be disappointed. Cameron hoped to lessen financial shortfalls by raiding dormant bank accounts. It’s a brilliant idea in theory, but the FT sounds a note of caution. The Big Society Bank may launch with reserves of only £60m because dormant accounts are notoriously hard to access, though they will yield more in time. Cameron will encourage philanthropy to provide the Big Society Bank with more than one source of income; he has not yet ruled out donating taxpayers’ money.