Mr. Callahan offers critiques of the leading approaches to giving today. And he does so in a way that is highly readable to people who may never have billions (or even millions) to donate to causes. He also shows why the rest of us need to be more skeptical about the praise heaped on big donors.

Paul Sullivan, New York Times

In “The Givers,” David Callahan brings inequality to life. He draws a startling picture of the astounding growth of private American wealth in the past quarter-century, the people who have accumulated it and the ways they are using their money, often aggressively, to change the world — sometimes for the better, sometimes not... Callahan has performed a public service.

Robert Kaiser, Washington Post

A detailed, judicious, and compelling analysis of an important and often ignored phenomenon: the impact of large-scale philanthropy on the United States in the 21st century. 

Glenn. C. Altschuler, Philadelphia Inquirer

Callahan offers a peek inside a rarefied, poorly understood world with ever greater power to remake the broader world. It’s an engaging, thought-provoking tour well worth the taking.

Michelle Cottle, New York Times Book Review

Intriguing look at the world of big-ticket philanthropy... An eye-opening view of a vast sector of the economy that lies in the shadows but has undue influence, for ill or good.

Kirkus Reviews

A thoughtful call for transparency and oversight in the charity sector... This striking, thought-provoking work is perfectly timed as American activists move to confront a new presidential administration.

Publishers Weekly

At issue for Callahan is not so much the impulse to give but outdated government incentives to mix giving with advocacy. This amounts, he says, to the wealthiest people having a louder voice than ordinary citizens.

Sarah Begley, TIME

A fascinating look into perhaps one of the least understood trends in the public square.

Dan Kaplan, Booklist




An inside look at the hidden world of elite philanthropists—and how they're quietly wielding ever more power to shape American life in ways both good and bad.

While the media focuses on billionaire givers such as Bill Gates and Charles Koch, thousands of donors are at work below the radar promoting a wide range of causes. David Callahan charts the rise of these new power players and the ways they are converting the great fortunes of a second Gilded Age into influence. Drawing on interviews with top philanthropists, he explores what drives them to give and how they’re pursuing big changes to American life.  

In The Givers, we meet a savvy and ambitious elite that is working behind the scenes on the most pressing issues of our time—education, the environment, health, criminal justice, and much more—with deep impact that affects us all. Looking ahead, Callahan argues that the influence of big philanthropy is only just beginning, as new waves of billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg turn to giving in an era when government is in decline.

Whether you cheer or fear these wealthy power players, their rise presents tough dilemmas for democracy. The Givers explores the proper role of private wealth in public life and, at every turn, comes back to an urgent question: Who’s really in charge of America these days?

Read this book to find out.

Author Photo, with book.JPG

DAVID CALLAHAN is founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy, a digital media site that covers the world of giving by wealthy donors and foundations. He has written extensively on trends in philanthropy and profiled numerous top foundation leaders and individual donors. Beyond The Givers, he is the author of seven nonfiction books including The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, which explored the state of ethics in America, looking at key professions and industries. His other books include Fortunes of Change: The Rise of the Liberal Rich and the Remaking of America and Dangerous Capabilities: Paul Nitze and the Cold War

Previously, Callahan was a Senior Fellow at Demos, a national think tank he co-founded in 2000, where he wrote frequently about economic and political inequality, taxes and fiscal policy, and regulation. Earlier, he was a Resident Scholar at the Century Foundation and managing editor of The American Prospect, a journal of politics and public policy. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York TimesUSA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, and he has been a frequent media commentator, including on Fox News, CNN, CBS News, and NPR. He has lectured widely, speaking at scores of universities, philanthropy groups, business organizations, and civic associations around the U.S. Callahan is a graduate of Hampshire College and holds a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University.  

More Info


"The Rise of Big Philanthropy," Innovation Hub, July 27, 2017 (Listen)

"Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a Gilded Age," RT Television, May 10, 2017 (Watch)

"Digging Deep Into Philanthropy," Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, April 20, 2017 (Listen)

"The Rise of Philanthropy's 'Shadow Giving System,'" Tiny Spark, April 18, 2017 (Listen)

"Philanthropy is Becoming 'Ideological Arms Race,' Author Says," NPR Weekend Edition, April 16, 2017 (Listen)

"Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age," Event Webcast, Philanthropy New York, April 13, 2017 (Watch)

"The Philanthropists Secretly Shaping America," Radio Interview, WNYC, Leonard Lopate Show, April 12, 2017 (Listen)

"Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age," Event Webcast, New York Public Library, April 12, 2017 (Watch)

"The Power of Elite Philanthropists," Radio Interview, RNZ, April 5, 2017. (Listen)