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"The Philanthropist" Debuts on NBC

(June 24, 2009) A new television series brings glamour, action and adventure to the world of philanthropy, but it may not be a realistic depiction of how charities work and the challenges they face.

The Philanthropist, airing on NBC on Wednesday evenings, depicts the story of a “billionaire playboy-turned-vigilante philanthropist” (according to NBC) who finds meaning in his life by traveling around the world and helping others.

A review in USA Today calls the new series a “well-acted, well-intentioned, incredibly preposterous show that would struggle even if it were in step with the times, rather than marching to its own prosperous drummer.” It also notes that the show “has no more to do with actual philanthropy than Superman does with journalism.”

The Council on Foundations received an advance copy of the first episode of the eight-part drama and was concerned about the wrong impression of philanthropy that it sends to the public. The Council has developed a series of talking points about the show. The talking points are designed to:

  • Acknowledge the series as entertainment rather than as representative of authentic charitable giving; and
  • Call attention to a couple of real, local stories about philanthropic activities and their results.

AFP agrees with the concerns of the Council and is pleased to make the talking points, posted on the Council on Foundations website, available to members.

“AFP feels that exposing the power of philanthropy to millions of people is a very positive thing,” says Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, president and CEO of AFP. “We appreciate NBC producing a show about doing good and we hope that as the series progresses that it will show philanthropy in a more realistic light or will shed more light on the real world of philanthropy rather than being solely for the purpose of entertainment.”

AFP will be monitoring the show to see if specific issues related to fundraising arise.

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