John Moore is wrong to say that philanthropists expect a return or reward, while charitable donors do not (“Philanthropy or giving – the wealth of difference,” Letters, January 13). In my experience, at least 95 percent of the philanthropists I worked with cared more about the cause they supported than their own self-interest.
During my 55-year career I have been responsible for fundraising at four national institutions (British Council, English National Opera, Royal Academy of Arts and Tate) and have been a trustee of national charities and international organizations focused on education and development. like the arts. I have encountered a handful of venal thugs, but not enough to justify smearing philanthropy with the egregious sins of the super-rich who use their wealth and power to cleanse their reputations and exploit the most vulnerable.
Philanthropy and charitable giving are important because they have enabled and funded civil society and the freedoms we enjoy today. There is no civil society in autocracies, and with liberal democracy on shaky ground, we should encourage – not condemn – philanthropists.
I remember two exceptional philanthropists I worked with. Both were exemplary and extraordinary women and characters. One was the Royal Academy’s most generous benefactor and insisted on anonymity. She has also donated several million dollars to educational and cultural projects across Britain.
The other preferred to finance projects that others did not want, notably new toilets in our main cultural institutions, a supreme example of public interest.
London W9, United Kingdom