Celebrating the Fourth of July and the Independent Sector

As our offices prepare to close in honor of July 4th, Independence Day here in the US, I am reminded of the singular nature of America’s philanthropic tradition.

Never ruled by a king and with a deep conviction in the power of everyday citizens to address community needs, Americans have developed a nonprofit and philanthropic sector unlike any in the world. As Alexis de Tocqueville famously remarked, “Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.”

As many in the U.S. head to the beach or barbecue to celebrate Independence Day, we offer the following summer reading in celebration of the nation’s independent sector – the private, non-governmental sector working to strengthen communities in the US and around the world.

  • Through a series of stories of wealth arising from generosity, Claire Guadani’s The Greater Good offers a look at the history of philanthropy in the US. It also argues from sound economic evidence that generosity is essential to continued American prosperity.
  • Also by Claire Guadani, Daughters of the Declaration: How Women Social Entrepreneurs Built the American Dream tells the story of the exceptional American women who helped turn the founding fathers’ vision into reality with drive, strategy, and the creation of America’s unique not-for-profit, or “social profit” sector.
  • Philanthropy in America: A History by Olivier Zunz, Commonwealth Professor of History at the University of Virginia, explores how philanthropy has become such a powerful and integral force in American society, and chronicles the connections between private giving and public affairs, showing how this union has enlarged democracy and shaped history.

Happy 4th of July!