Date of Award

Spring 2004

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Sally Ward


This is a study of individual philanthropists and their beliefs and practices of philanthropy in southern New Hampshire and southern Maine. It examines the patterns and social structures of philanthropy in these areas, looking particularly at issues of class, culture, social capital, and civic participation.

Based on in-depth interviews conducted with 40 wealthy philanthropists in 2002 and 2003, the study findings suggest that I uncovered a population of philanthropists that had not been studied before. These sample philanthropists are not simply using their wealth to maintain the status quo and perpetuate their position in society, as past studies have found philanthropists to be. While some of these philanthropists choose to be members of the upper-class-elite-culture of philanthropy, others eschew or are not at all interested in membership in this culture. I identified four subsets of philanthropists in the study. Some of these philanthropists do support the traditional institutions and organizations of elite culture while others support those institutions and organizations that seek to offer social provision, address the inequities in society and, to some extent, alter the structures of society.

Generations of wealth, education, migration, party, marriage, gender and age/generation are factors that affect these philanthropists' choice of which organizations receive their time and money, and their traditional or change orientation. The subset of philanthropists that respondents belong to, based on their engagement in the elite culture of philanthropy, determines areas of giving, how they contribute (% time and % income), how they view decision-making in the organizations to which they donate, and how they relate to their wealth. The subset of philanthropists that they belong to also affects their diversity of associations and comfort with their wealth, which impact their positioning in either leadership or collaborative roles with the organizations to which they donate their time and their money.

These findings suggest a new, or previously unstudied social structure in the philanthropy world in which some wealthy philanthropists choose not to be members of elite culture. These philanthropists are aware of the inequities in society and focus their philanthropy on attempts to "administer social justice", "even the playing field" and "give back to society".