About This Project

National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) is a public charity dedicated to increasing philanthropy in society. We created “A History of Modern Philanthropy” as a service to the public and to further our charitable mission. We hope it helps people understand the foundation, legacy and impact of modern philanthropy.

The timeline itself covers 500 years in approximately 200 entries and is designed to provide a narrative, if not exhaustive, view of history. We carefully chose each entry for its connection to a larger trend in philanthropy or giving practices. Our goal is to convey the breadth and possibilities of philanthropy by highlighting moments and events that represent the evolution of charitable giving around the world.

Navigating the Timeline

Our goal is to provide you with a simple but flexible user experience, allowing you to scroll chronologically, jump to different time periods, or filter entries by region, type or cause. You will also find a variety of media alongside many of the entries, such as original documents, photos, illustrations, sound files, and video. Over time, we hope to grow and refine our presentation, adding things like a search feature, additional research categories, and more media. In that spirit, we appreciate your feedback and will actively consider partner contributions and expansion opportunities.

To contact NPT, please send an email to historyofgiving@nptrust.org


NPT would like to recognize the invaluable contributions of the research team at History Associates and the design team at Suka Creative. We would also like to thank the following organizations for their various contributions of information and/or media:

Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Emma Willard School, Troy, New York
The Ford Foundation
Independent Sector
Keep the Promise
Library and Archives of Canada
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
University of Southern Mississippi
Vicaría de la Solidaridad

Selected Bibliography

Adams, Christine. Poverty, Charity, and Motherhood: Maternal Societies in Nineteenth Century France. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Andrews, Charles McLean. The Historical Development of Modern Europe, From the Congress of Vienna to the Present Time, 1815-1897. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1910.

Anheier, Helmut K. and Stefan Toepler, eds. International Encyclopedia of Civil Society. New York: Springer, 2010.

Aoki, Toshiyuki. “History of Japanese Corporate Philanthropy.” Japan International Institute for Volunteering Research.

Beaudoin, Steven M. “A Social Laboratory for Modern France: The Musee Social and the Rise of the Welfare State (review).” Journal of Social History 37 (2003).

Boyar, Ebru and Kate Fleet. A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Bremner, Robert H. American Philanthropy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Bremner, Robert H. Giving: Charity and Philanthropy in History. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1994.

Burlingame, Dwight F., ed. Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2004.

Carnegie, Andrew. “Wealth,” North American Review, June 1889.

Chinese Miscellany: General description of Shanghai and its Environs, Extracted from Native Authorities. Mission Press, 1850.

Clift, Elayne, ed. Women, Philanthropy, and Social Change: Visions for a Just Society. Medford, Massachusetts: Tufts University Press, 2005.

Collins, Robert O. and James M. Burns. A History of Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Corfield, Justin. Historical Dictionary of Singapore. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2010.

Dictionary of the History of Ideas, ed. Philip P. Weiner. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973.

Dulmus, Catherine N. and Karen M. Sowers. The Profession of Social Work: Guided by History, Led by Evidence. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012.

Duran, Lisa. “Caring for Each Other: Philanthropy in Communities of Color.” Grassroots Fundraising Journal 20 (2001).

Friedman, Lawrence J. and Mark D. McGarvie, eds. Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

“Giving It Away,” The Economist, October 23, 1997.

Goldberg, Eleanor and Jessica Prois, “Nelson Mandela Fought Poverty, AIDS, Supported 50 Charities,” The Huffington Post, December 6, 2013.

Grant, Peter. The Business of Giving: The Theory and Practice of Philanthropy, Grantmaking, and Social Investment. London: Cass Business Press, 2012.

Gregory, Robert G. The Rise and Fall of Philanthropy in East Africa. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992.

Harris, Bernard and Paul Bridgen, eds. Charity and Mutual Aid in Europe and North America since 1800. ed. New York: Routledge, 2007.

Hewa, Soma and Darwin H. Stapleton, eds. Globalization, Philanthropy, and Civil Society: Toward A New Political Culture in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Springer, 2005.

Hollis, Aidan and Arthur Sweetman. “The Evolution of a Microcredit Institution: The Irish Loan Funds, 1720-1920.” Working Paper, Department of Economics and Institute for Policy Analysis, University of Toronto, January 2, 1996.

“Hope Continues: Remembering Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope,” Toronto Sun, September 14, 2014.

Hopkins, Bruce R. The Law of Tax-Exempt Organizations. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011.

Horne, Janet Regina. A Social Laboratory for Modern France: The Musee Social and the Rise of the Welfare State. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2002.

Ilchman, Warren F., Stanley N. Katz, and Edward L. Queen II, eds. Philanthropy in the World’s Traditions. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Iliffe, John. The African Poor: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Jennings, Michael. Surrogates of the State: NGOs, Development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania. Bloomfield, Connecticut: Kumarian Press, 2008.

MacDonald, Norine and Luc Tayart de Borm, eds. Philanthropy in Europe: A Rich Past, A Promising Future. London: Alliance Publishing Trust, 2008.

Mather, Cotton. Essays To Do Good. Glasgow: Chalmers and Collins, 1825.

McCarthy, Kathleen D., eds. Women, Philanthropy, and Civil Society. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001.

“National Philanthropy Day: Canada Becomes First Country to Formalize Day of Recognition For Charitable Works,” The Huffington Post Canada, November 15, 2012.

“Philanthropy in Communities of Color,” Grassroots Fundraising Journal 20 (2001): 5-6.

Rodgers, Daniel T. Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Sanborn, Cynthia and Felipe Portocarrero, eds. Philanthropy and Social Change in Latin America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Schwartz, Jonathan and Shawn Shieh, eds. State-Society Negotiations in China: Serving the People. Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2009.

Smith, Joanna F. Handlin. “Social Hierarchy and Merchant Philanthropy as Perceived in Several Late-Ming and Early-Qing Texts.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 41, No. 3 (1998).

Soskis, Benjamin J. The Pre- and Early History of American Corporate Philanthropy. Minneapolis: Center for Ethical Business Cultures, 2010.

Sperling, Julie and Michael H. Hall. Philanthropic Success Stories in Canada. Imagine Canada: Ottawa, 2007.

Stern, Steve J. Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Democratic Chile, 1989-2006. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2010.

Stromberg, Ann. Philanthropic Foundations in Latin America. Russell Sage Foundation, 1968.

Strom, Stephanie. “Pew Charitable Trusts Will Become Public Charity,” The New York Times, November 7, 2003

Thorn, Hakan. “Solidarity Across Borders: The Transnational Anti-Apartheid Movement.” Voluntas 17 (December 2006).

de Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1840.

Tsu, Yu Yue. “The Spirit of Chinese Philanthropy: A Study in Mutual Aid.” PhD diss., Columbia University, 1912.

Vinken, Henk, eds. et al. Civic Engagement in Contemporary Japan: Established and Emerging Repertoires. Springer Science & Business Media, 2010.

Wamucii, Priscilla. “Youth Agency, Sport, and the Public Sphere in Kenya,” Voluntas 23 (March 2012).

Winder, David. “Innovations in Strategic Philanthropy – Comparative Lessons from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe: The Case of Mexico,” Synergos (2004).

Zunz, Oliver Philanthropy in America: A History. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Additional Sources

African Grantmakers Network
American Bible Society
American Red Cross
Asian American Advancing Justice, Asian Law Caucus
Association of Fundraising Professionals
B’nai Brith
Barefoot College
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
CARE International
Carnegie Corporation of New York
The Cleveland Foundation
D.C. Central Kitchen
Danish Refugee Council
David Suzuki Foundation
Doctors Without Borders
Emma Willard School
Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia of Chicago
Fe y Alegria
GE Foundation
The George C. Marshall Foundation
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
The Giving Pledge
Global Giving Resource
Government of Canada, Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships
Habitat for Humanity
Handicap International
Harvard University
Historica Canada
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
History in Focus, Institute of Historical Research at the University of London
History of Social Work Initiative
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
Horizons Foundation
Independent Sector
Inside Philanthropy
The Intelligent Optimist
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
International Rescue Committee
Irish America
Japanese International Institute for Volunteering Research
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museums
Library of Congress
March of Dimes
Massachusetts Historical Society
Mathare Youth Sports Association
Mo Ibrahim Foundation
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Endowment for the Humanities
National Gallery of Art
National Low Income Housing Coalition
Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP)
Nelson Mandela Foundation
New Georgia Encyclopedia
The New York Community Trust
The Nightingale Fund
Nobel Prize
One Acre Foundation
Online Etymology Dictionary
Open Society Foundations
P2P Foundation
Pace University
Penn Medicine
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Philanthropy Roundtable
Rockefeller Foundation
Salk Institute
The Salvation Army International
Scots Charitable Society
Shibusawa Memorial Museum
Smithsonian Institute
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
The Social Welfare History Project
Stanford University
The Survival Fund
Taglit Birthright Israel
Tan Kah Kee Foundation
Tan Tock Seng Hospital
The Terry Fox Foundation
Texas Historical Association
Third Sector Innovations
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
U.S. Social Security Administration
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Virginia
US-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership
Vancouver Foundation
Washington Area Women’s Foundation
Wellcome Trust
Wikimedia Foundation
Women’s Funding Network
The Ynchausti Foundation