Center on Wealth and Philanthropy
Spiritual and Cultural Life in an Age of Affluence

Wealth and The Commonwealth
Newsletter Volume 6: July 2004


Social Welfare Research Institute Becomes Center on Wealth and Philanthropy

Center on Wealth and Philanthropy Advisory Board

"The Inheritance of Wealth and the Commonwealth: The Ideal of Paideia in an Age of Affluence"

ALDE Conference Presentation: "Better than Gold: The Moral Biography of Charitable Giving"


Forthcoming Newsletters

In our next newsletter we will discuss our new research projects on the economic and spiritual aspects of philanthropic decision-making, and our study of the financial and philanthropic plans that result from that decision-making. We will also introduce you to two new members of our staff.

In subsequent newsletters, we will:

    -Announce a new service to provide regional, state, and metropolitan area wealth transfer estimates;
    -Report on our new executive education program for financial professionals, development professionals, and wealth holders;
    -Provide new national estimates of the forthcoming intergenerational transfer of wealth based on an updated Wealth Transfer Microsimulation Model;
    -Present some new findings on patterns and trends of charitable giving by wealth holders; and
    -Discuss our new grant from the Boston Foundation to study regional patterns of charitable giving.

We welcome your feedback on the format and accessibility of our newsletter. In the event that a link to an article or to additional information is not working properly, please let us know. You can also visit our website where the material linked to our newsletter is available.

Dear Colleagues:

I am pleased to be once again sending you our periodic newsletter, Wealth and the Commonwealth, after a hiatus of several months. Despite the fact that you haven't heard from us recently, important things have been happening, and we are inaugurating some new directions.

The most visible and immediate innovation I want to announce is the change in name of our center from the Social Welfare Research Institute to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy (CWP, pronounced swep). This name change was approved by the President of Boston College, Reverend William P. Leahy, S.J., and became official June 1, 2004. The rationale for the change is to provide the general public and those with whom we work a straightforward indication of our research topics and program agenda.

You will still be able to reach us for a while using our former email and web addresses. Those of you who want to update your contact lists, our general email address is and our web address is

In addition to announcing our transition to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, this newsletter introduces the members of the Center's Advisory Board, and provides an overview and link to two recent papers.

We have missed being in touch with you these past few months and we are pleased to have heard that several of you have missed us. We continue to update our web page with new reports and articles, and so invite you to prowl around and see what is new. For your information, the topics of our forthcoming newsletters are outlined on the left.

We view our work as revolving around one of the leading questions of the 21st century, namely, how individuals can more wisely and freely allocate a portion of their financial wherewithal to the care of others when the accumulation of additional wealth diminishes its importance. We look forward to considering this question together with you.


Paul Schervish

Center on Wealth and Philanthropy

  • Social Welfare Research Institute Becomes Center on Wealth and Philanthropy
  • The change in name to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy catches up with the increasingly exclusive focus of our work over the past two decades on the trends, meaning, motivations, and practice of wealth and philanthropy. It also coincides with a new program of executive education that we will be offering to wealth holders, fundraisers, and financial professionals.

    Although we have been prompted now and again by insightful colleagues to consider a name that more accurately reflects the substance of the work, I resisted. After all, were not our studies on wealth and philanthopy in fact directly connected to understanding and shaping the social welfare of contemporary society?

    Last March the Center's national Advisory Board,initiated a discussion on the Center's name. The Board suggested that the title of the Social Welfare Research Institute, notwithstanding the broader connotation of social welfare, come to reflect more transparently its mission. The Board saw from the outside what John Havens and I could not see from the inside. Our venerable title invited the potential misunderstanding that SWRI's study of wealth and philanthropy was tied to a welfare policy agenda concerned with family assistance, poverty, unemployment, and low- wage work. More importantly, Social Welfare Research Institute did not readily communicate to the public, academic community, nonprofits, and funders of our unique mission the discovery, communication, and application of knowledge on wealth and philanthropy, and, more fundamentally, on the issues of capacity and care.

    In deciding upon our new name, we elicited the advice of many individuals inside and outside of Boston College. The counsel we received was unanimous in advising that the appellation be parsimonious, reference the topics of our research, and indicate our objective to be a site from which information emanates as well as a place where people will gather for education and reflection. The title, Center on Weatlh and Philanthropy, meets each of these criteria and has thus far been met with a positive response.

  • Center on Wealth and Philanthropy Advisory Board
  • We are pleased to have obtained the generous assistance of several outstanding business, academic, and philanthropic leaders as members of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy's national Advisory Board. Members include:

    Lorna Lathrum, Former Founding President of the Omidyar Foundation

    John T. Losier, Past President and Chief Executive Officer, Philips Electronics North America

    J. Donald Monan, S. J., Chancellor, Boston College

    Thomas B. Murphy, The T. B. Murphy Foundation Charitable Trust

    Scott G. Nichols, Dean of Development, Harvard Law School

  • "The Inheritance of Wealth and the Commonwealth: The Ideal of Paideia in an Age of Affluence"
  • The transmission of philanthropy across the generations is the transfer of a spiritual agency of material capacity, care for others, and a process of conscientious decision- making and choice. The intergenerational transmission of philanthropy is less a matter of shepherding heirs to become caretakers of existing philanthropic instruments and endeavors as it is a matter of guiding heirs to become agents who reconstitute for their own time and in their own way the relation between wealth and the commonwealth.

    In the first section of the paper I draw on an essay by John Maynard Keynes to set the stage for an understanding of the material and cultural conditions in the offing during the early twenty-first century. In the second section, I summarize several elements of the material heritage we will leave our children, including a substantial transfer of wealth, and indicate the implications of these trends for the historical circumstances of wealth and philanthropy that our heirs will face.

    The third section examines the meaning of moral biography as the confluence of material capacity and moral compass, and how our calling today is to provide our heirs the opportunity to conscientiously shape their own moral biographies tailored to the distinctive characteristics of the future in which they will live. In the fourth section, I explore two elements of how we might best go about helping our children and grandchildren form their own moral biographies. I focus especially on the communication of paideia, the Greek ideal of formative education and the meaning of culture, as the ideal of our teachings and on discernment as a process of decision making aimed at clarifying one's philanthropic resources, purposes, and mode of implementation. In the conclusion, I exhort those in my generation to make it our vocation to help our children freely discover their own vocation.

    Download the text of: "The Inheritance of Wealth and the Commonwealth: The Ideal of Paideia in an Age of Affluence"
  • ALDE Conference Presentation: "Better than Gold: The Moral Biography of Charitable Giving"
  • This presentation focuses on the addition of a third key component for fundraising in congregations in addition to the traditional mission-based and spirituality-based approaches. The mission-based model of stewardship identifies congregational needs and invites the congregation to contribute to meet those needs. The spirituality-based model asks individuals to reflect upon their relationship to God and to develop their inclination to become sacrificial givers to serve God's needs rather than only meeting particular needs in the church. Although each of these models serve their own vital role, a third model that considers the needs of the donating member is of equal importance. I suggest the voluntary contribution of financial gifts will be most highly motivated and productive where we find the confluence of meeting the needs of the congregation, God, and, the donor - what Thomas Aquinas describes as the unity of love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.

    I discuss three important aspects of the needs of donors that should be taken into account in stewardship efforts. The first aspect is the notion that charitable giving is a practice that helps constitute an individual's life as a moral biography. The second aspect is the increasing material capacity that is, and will, increasingly form the basis for growth in charitable giving. And finally, the third aspect is the notion that working with the inclinations of donors through a self-reflective process of discernment will make charitable giving more meaningful and more abundant.

    Download the ALDE Conference Presentation: "Better than Gold: The Moral Biography of Charitable Giving"
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