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In Generosity Unbound, Claire Gaudiani mounts a spirited defense of philanthropic freedom addressed to conservatives, liberals and centrists. She acknowledges the good intentions of those who favor greater regulation of private philanthropy, but powerfully demonstrates the dangers of this approach.
But this book is more than a warning. Gaudiani also uncovers the fascinating history of philanthropy in America, showing how this nation’s distinctive tradition of citizen-to-citizen generosity has been a powerful engine of economic growth, social justice, and upward mobility.
Finally, Gaudiani calls on foundation leaders, legislators, and concerned citizens to take up anew the great challenge set forth by our nation’s Founders in the Declaration of Independence. She proposes an all-out citizen-led effort to deliver on the Declaration’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, particularly our poorest citizens. The success of such a ‘Declaration Initiative’ would enable us to justly celebrate the nation’s 250th birthday on July 4th, 2026.
Claire Gaudiani is adjunct professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and a senior fellow at the Institute for American Values. She served from 1988-2001 as president of Connecticut College and from 2001-2004 as a senior research scholar at the Yale Law School. She holds ten honorary doctorates and was awarded the Henry Rosso Medal for distinguished service to philanthropy from the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University. Her previous books included The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism and Generosity Rules! A Guidebook to Giving.
What They Are Saying:
“Claire Gaudiani has a well-earned reputation as one of the leading thinkers about American philanthropy. Here she analyzes the challenges of coming years and shows how we can unleash the full idealism and generosity of the nation. She has made yet another welcome contribution.”—David Gergen, Director, Center for Public Leadership, The Kennedy School, Harvard University
“Generosity Unbound unmasks Gaudiani as an unreconstructed, unapologetic believer in the transformative potential of American-style philanthropy. Drawing on appeals to history, reason, pride, and passion, she invites us to envision a role for philanthropy that is worthy of its past. Gaudiani’s ‘Declaration Initiative’ would commit philanthropy to a cause no less noble, ambitious, and essential than that of ending persistent poverty and, at long last, affording all Americans true access to the equal opportunity that lies at the core of the democratic ideal.”—Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President, The Annie E. Casey Foundation
“Gaudiani presents a timely solution to the economic and political crises facing our nation. Generosity Unbound is a fresh look at America’s philanthropic past and how private foundations can be the vanguard of a path back to prosperity— for those hit hardest by the recession, and for our entire nation. ”—Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., President, Heritage Foundation
“Critics of wealthy foundations would do well to read Claire Gaudiani’s powerfully argued defense of American philanthropic freedom. And those who wish to preserve this freedom would do well to consider her bold ‘Declaration Initiative.’ Let’s see what entrepreneurial generosity can accomplish when mobilized around a set of goals consistent with this country’s founding vision.”—J. Gregory Dees, professor, Center for the Advancement of Social, Entrepreneurship, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University
“Claire Gaudiani shows eloquently that the generosity of the American people is rooted in our freedom and our freedom is rooted in our generosity. And she issues a stirring call for new philanthropic leadership that will open the gates of opportunity for all Americans.”—Adam Meyerson, President, Philanthropy Roundtable
“While some would suggest that philanthropy is on its heels, Claire Gaudiani shows us the potential that America’s philanthropic sector has to activate our country’s moral leadership and unleash citizen generosity for the purpose of addressing our unfinished quest for justice for all.”—Tracy Gary, author and founder, Inspired Legacies and The Progressive Legacy Project
“Claire Gaudiani’s Generosity Unbound is a welcome dose of ‘common sense for the common good’ of our nation. Her challenge to philanthropic leaders of all political stripes—left, right, and center—to gather around a shared goal of meaningful opportunity and prosperity for all Americans should be heeded. Perhaps philanthropy can model what too many of our political leaders seem to be unable or unwilling to do: construct a safe place where our nation’s ideas are not needlessly trampled by ideologies.”—Robert K. Ross, M.D., President and CEO, The California Endowment
“Generosity Unbound shows how the philanthropic tradition is firmly rooted in American history and culture. It serves as a critical inspiration and challenge to today’s leaders to preserve the freedom and opportunity that make this tradition a uniquely vibrant force for good in the world.”—James Piereson, President, William E. Simon Foundation
“In this vitally important book, Claire Gaudiani convincingly makes the case that philanthropy has the capacity—and must use it—to heal the divisions in our society and to advance a renewed and enduring commitment to social justice that meets the challenges of our times.”—Stephen Heintz, President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund