Fundamentals of Philanthropy - SO808

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 7 30 (15) DR B Breeze checkmark-circle


This module gives a comprehensive overview of current academic knowledge about philanthropy. Students will gain an advanced level understanding of historical and contemporary issues relating to philanthropy, the various theories and ideologies regarding the existence of philanthropic behaviours and the role of government and policy-makers in shaping the legal, fiscal and cultural context for philanthropy.

The course begins by exploring the different meanings of the concept of 'philanthropy' in relation to related concepts such as ‘altruism’ and ‘charity’, then looks at the issues of continuity and change in philanthropic action over different eras, including the influence of varying welfare provision, political context and social impacts such as the declining influence of religion. We will move on to consider how geographic and socio-demographic contexts shape philanthropy, with an exploration of accounts of philanthropic giving across countries as well as in historically different contexts. We will study various different theoretical approaches to understanding philanthropy and giving, before exploring critiques of philanthropic action, the complex interactions between benefactors and beneficiaries, and the relationship between philanthropy and the state. A special focus on institutionalised philanthropy, in the form of charitable foundations and corporate philanthropy will be followed by a focus on key contemporary debates and new concepts for understanding philanthropy, such as the ‘Effective Altruism’ movement, philanthrocapitalism and social investment. By the end of the module, students will have encountered a large breadth and depth of material and will be conversant in key concepts, theories and issues.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 50
Private study hours: 250
Total study hours: 300



Method of assessment

100% coursework, comprising:

Coursework - Essay (4000 words) – 60%
Coursework - assignment (2000 words) – 20%
Coursework - Forum participation - 20%

Indicative reading

Davies, R. (2015) Public Good by Private Means: How Philanthropy Shapes Britain, London: Alliance.

Moody, M. and Breeze, B. (2016) The Philanthropy Reader. London, Routledge

Payton, R. and Moody, M. (2008) Understanding Philanthropy: Its meaning and mission, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an advanced critical understanding of the range of theories and key conceptual approaches to philanthropy
2. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the historical evolution of philanthropy and charity in the United Kingdom and beyond and be able to critically evaluate the impact of this on current debates
3. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the role of the policy environment in which philanthropy exists and the role government actors play in shaping the legal, fiscal and cultural context of philanthropy
4. Evaluate philanthropy and grant making techniques in order to produce reasoned, justified and creative opinions on a range of contemporary issues relating to the practice of philanthropy
5. Act autonomously in creating and presenting critical ideas for applying theoretical, empirical and practical knowledge in the tackling and solving of specific philanthropic tasks
6. Systematically identify a range of funding streams and evaluate the effectiveness of these sources in a range of contexts

The intended generic learning outcomes.

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Make critical evaluations in systematically gathering appropriate and reliable library and web-based resources for postgraduate study
2. Act autonomously in using web-based resources to follow up what they hear in the online seminars and what they read in the web-based study materials provided
3. Demonstrates self-direction and critical judgement in accessing, interpreting and analysing research data and official data and applying this to theoretical concepts
4. Use selected resources to construct critical arguments and be able to communicate these conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences
5. Apply their skills in solving problems and planning and implementing tasks to inform and improve professional practice
6. Be a critically reflexive on both individual and organisational practice


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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