Born to the One Percent, Dedicated to the 99

Chuck Collins inherited a half million dollar trust fund from his parents and at 26, he decided to give it all away. Looking back now, he says he has no regrets because it allowed him to “unflinchingly look at the growing income and wealth inequalities that have opened up over the last 30 years.”

Today, Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue think tank. His latest book is called Born on Third Base which is the term he uses to describe people like himself, who were born into lives of privilege. “Most people have to get into the batter’s box and take a couple of pitches and make their own way. I was born at the place where a lot of people work their entire lives to get to.”

In this podcast, Collins shares his ideas for ensuring that more Americans reach third base and we learn how the nation’s income divide may be corroding the nonprofit sector. Collins recently co-authored a report revealing that charitable giving from low and midrange donors has been declining over the past decade, while many nonprofits are increasingly relying on a relative handful of mega donors. Collins says this trend poses risks to the health and independence of the nonprofit sector and democracy itself. He shares his concerns about the rise of the mega donor, the limits of philanthropy to create social change, and explains why we ought to offer more support to the only institution that’s ever offered wide swaths of the population a shot at the American dream.

Additional Resources:

Chuck Collins, Helen Flannery and Josh Hoxie’s Gilded Giving Report

Collins’ book: Born on Third Base

Chuck Collins & Helen Flannery: ‘Gilded Giving’ Carries Peril for Philanthropy, and Society

Income Inequality Statistics

NPR story: 2016 Philanthropy Trends: Americans Donate Record $373 Billion

Collins on Twitter

Featured Image: Chuck Collins


  1. Another excellent podcast, thank you. Perhaps the government should introduce a wealth tax like France does? This would help funnel back some needed funds into government social welfare projects. I love his explanation on the difference between giving to support change or charity. Here in England I happily pay taxes as I’m able to see on a daily basis how well the money is used to support the society around me. But in South Africa I took any opportunity I could to give money to support change and charity instead of paying tax. In Portugal I felt undecided as there was alot of government corruption like in SA as well as a small, poor population but also a struggling social welfare situation due to lack of funds. I don’t know what I would do in America. Great topic!

    • Amy

      Thank you, Candace. It seems there is a reluctance here in the US to raise taxes in general. It’s encouraging to hear that you see the benefits of tax dollars manifest around you in UK society. Here in the US, I don’t think many people see “doing good” through prism of philanthropy versus taxes but I think it’s a conversation worth having. Collins gave me much to consider in that regard.

  2. Good job Tiny Spark! Gentle touch on how government funded subsidies of the past boosted many businesses and rise of individual wealth for some. Perhaps share resources on how the GI Bill disproportionately advantaged whites in terms of education and housing post WWII. So many issues….

  3. I look forward to listening. The truth is, to have more balance with low to mid level donors, the organization has to have more bandwidth, which means greater capacity. For grassroots organizations and even mid-size, this is challenging. This is a space where I am devoting all that I can to help grow a more balanced donor portfolio for my clients. Tuning in now.

    • Amy

      Yes, bandwith/general operating support for small nonprofits is key, and yet frequently so hard to come by. And without bandwith, it’s hard to grow, and so the vicious cycle goes.

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