Organized philanthropy as it is practiced now in the United States is one of the nation’s great social innovations—“America’s passing gear” for accelerating invention, in Paul Ylvisaker’s memorable words. While reflecting on philanthropic innovations just taking hold, it is useful to remember that today’s institutional forms and ingrained practices were once new and untested.
This timeline provides a brief tour of some of the major innovations in organized giving. Not all of them were the very first of their kind; some of the dates mark the time of an innovation’s mainstream adoption or the start of its more widespread use. But all have helped to shape philanthropy as it exists today.
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