The New Local Philanthropy
DOI link for The New Local Philanthropy
The New Local Philanthropy book
However, this way of looking at corporate philanthropy gives short shrift to the influence that charitable nonprofits wield, which stems less from the actual good works they achieve than from their abilities to shape discourses and mobilize collective action around the "civic good." In fact, corporate support for nonprofits embodies an important form of political behavior.4 At the local level, the traditional urban business community has long used philanthropy to legitimate and even exercise community power. Regular support by corporate branches, regional banks, local newspapers, and utilities has made business strongholds out of nonprofits like the United
Way and local museums. 5 Corporate philanthropy embeds these and other nonprofits into the traditional civic network in at least three ways. First, nonprofits offer settings for informal networking and deal-making opportunities that overlap other intercorporate interlocks, such as corporate directorates and policy-discussion groupS.6 Second, philanthropy allows business to influence the agenda of resource-dependent nonprofits.7 To the extent that nonprofits compete for scarce business support, more controversial groups and causes that criticize business can go underfunded. 8 Third, non profits imbue business coalitions and agendas with the legitimacy that comes from their "harmonious" social service mission,9 if they do not promote the business agenda outright. 10
A NEW ERA OF CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY? Does the new urban economy sustain these traditions of corporate philanthropy? The existing evidence is unsystematic and mired in particular assumptions about proper modes of corporate philanthropy. Much consternation about the philanthropic "failures" of new money comes from venerable nonprofits and their traditional business community benefactors. In a context where Fortune 500 corporations have fled central cities, nonprofits and urban business leaders alike fear that new urban economy corporations do not appear to be replacing the corporate citizens of old who sustained philanthropy and provided visible business leadership. For scholars, one difficulty in evaluating this claim rests upon whether the issue is philanthropic generosity per se or the apparent disinterest in older civic priorities. Although Hollywood, for instance, has a long tradition of philanthropy, it nevertheless received criticism recently for not supporting one of the downtown Los Angeles business community's pet projects, the construction of the Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.