The Philanthropy Initiative at the National Museum of American History collects, documents, researches, and creates exhibitions and online content relating to the history of American giving. Convening conversations with historic perspectives about philanthropy’s impact across a wide spectrum of issues is central to the project.
The Initiative’s long-term exhibition, Giving in America; an annual symposium, The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life; and other programming help visitors understand how Americans’ gifts of time, expertise, and resources continue to shape American history in all its complexity and reflect our nation’s ideas and ideals.
Through annual themes, we examine the role that philanthropy—in all forms and at all levels—has played in addressing particular areas of need. Our current focus is Education, examined in the “Who Pays for Education?” exhibit and the 2020 Power of Giving symposium. Previous themes include Health and Medicine, examined in the Giving and Health exhibit and the 2019 Power of Giving symposium; Culture and the Arts, examined in Giving and the Arts and the 2018 Power of Giving symposium; and Sustainability and the Environment, examined in Giving and the Environment and the 2016 Power of Giving symposium.
Digital storytelling, social media, and this website further support the Philanthropy Initiative’s mission to bring historic perspectives to contemporary discussions about the breadth and diversity of Americans’ visions and experiences in philanthropy.
The Philanthropy Initiative launched in 2015 with a preview of the Giving in America exhibition and the first symposium, The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life. In 2016 the Philanthropy Initiative opened the Giving in America exhibition, hosted the second Power of Giving, and welcomed Dr. Amanda B. Moniz as its David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy.
Moniz is building the National Philanthropy Collection with an array of foundational objects that tell stories about significant developments in American giving. Follow her work collecting objects that represent the varied and nuanced aspects of philanthropy at @amhistorymuseum. One such object is a portrait of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton donated to the museum by Graham Windham. The portrait helps us tell the story of how women emerged as philanthropic leaders, helping to reshape both welfare priorities and society’s ideas about women’s public roles.
Moniz’s collecting work also includes an oral history project exploring the experiences of a wide range of people in philanthropy. These oral histories will ultimately be shared through the National Museum of American History’s Archives Center. The stories on this website draw from the accounts of Brother Jim Boynton and Leanne Brodeur of Ste. Anne Parish, Mackinac Island, Michigan, and Marie Lam and Regina Lee from the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in New York City.
The Philanthropy Initiative benefits from the expertise of its Working Group members, including Jennifer Alcorn (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Dr. Richard Bell (University of Maryland), Kristen Cambell (Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement), Corinne Cannon (Greater DC Diaper Bank), Dr. Jacqueline Bouvier Copeland (The WISE Fund and Black Philanthropy Month), Asha Curran (GivingTuesday), Dr. Jason Franklin (Solidaire Donor Network and Ktisis Capital), Erin Hogan (Bank of America Private Bank), Elizabeth Kinney (Light House Social Enterprise), and Rebecca Morphis (Fidelity Charitable).
The Philanthropy Initiative is made possible by
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
and David M. Rubenstein
with additional support by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative
a grantmaking program of Fidelity Charitable.
The “Philanthropy and the Arts” Miami program, part of the Philanthropy Where You Are series, was made possible with the support of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management.
Amanda B. Moniz, PhD
David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy
Philanthropy Initiative Program Manager
Sarah Weicksel, PhD
Associate Director for External Affairs
Director of Communications and Marketing
Deputy Director for External Affairs
Digital Experience Producer
Maria C. Sanchez
The Philanthropy Initiative thanks Laura Lee Oviedo for her contributions as project historian for the War and Latina/o Philanthropy Collecting Initiative.
This project received Federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.