Monday, February 27, 2017

Documentary: What is Philanthropy?

In the award-winning documentary, What is Philanthropy?, Salvatore Alaimo explores and analyzes the history and meaning of "giving"—what and why we give. Alaimo--a professor at the school of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University (Grand Rapids, Michigan)--sheds light and dispels myths surrounding the idea of charitable giving. The film demonstrates how philanthropy is not just about donating money, nor does it solely apply to the wealthy. In fact, in the USA, lower and middle-income earners actually give the most to charity as philanthropy is also about giving time, volunteering and advocating for social change.  

A wide-range of information is presented through Alaimo's lens depicting the role of how the federal government, the states, the private sector and individual citizens engage in philanthropy and how philanthropy touches everyday lives. The film offers a historical perspective of how, over the course of centuries, people--from Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie, among others--have pursued philanthropic causes. Interspersed throughout are interviews with learned scholars, academics, civil rights leaders, politicians and religious charity chairpersons from Judaic, Christian and Muslim backgrounds who offer their own insights, research and opinions about the role philanthropy has--and continues to--play in society at large. Also included are interviews with notables in current American culture who have used public platforms to promote larger philanthropic causes such as Estee Lauder and her work with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; environmentalist Nell Newman--the daughter of Academy Award-winner, Paul Newman--and how her foundation, Newman's Own products, advocates for organic, sustainable agriculture; and NFL quarterback Alex Smith and how his foundation provides foster teens with resources and support as they transition into adulthood. 

Alaimo highlights those who work selflessly to promote causes such as Angel Flight, an organization where private pilots transport patients for medical care and treatments, and the efforts of people like Derreck Kayongo, a Uganda native, who started the Global Soap Project in the US, which collects used soap bars from American hotels and reprocesses them for shipment to impoverished nations such as Haiti, Uganda, Kenya and Swaziland. 

The most heartfelt aspects of the documentary showcase how smaller philanthropic foundations are often established after a person has suffered a deeply personal struggle and loss such as the Josie King Foundation, which advocates for a culture of patient medical safety. This foundation was established by the parents of Josie King in an effort to combat their personal grief after losing their 18-month-old to medical errors on February 22, 2001. Rounding out the film are moving stories of individuals who participate in giving via the likes of sewing circles and those who donate blood, platelets and even breast milk to charitable causes.

Along the way, Alaimo cleverly ties in clips from contemporary TV programs and movies to the theme of philanthropy. A portion of the film also depicts how social activism--including the pursuits of American Indians, the disabled, Gay Pride, Occupy Wall Street, voting rights, the death penalty and healthcare--also falls under the umbrella of philanthropy.  

What is Philanthropy? is well-balanced, lively and informative and is sure to stimulate lively debate, discussion and reflection for those--academics, students and social activists--who wish to more thoroughly understand the history and ideas of philanthropic "giving" in its many unique forms.

What is Philanthropy? a documentary (written/produced/directed) by Salvatore Alaimo
86 minutes; DVD $15.99; Blu-Ray $22.99
Distributed by Indiana University )
Also available via - link HERE