That’s a question worth asking as we look back on a year filled with big news: Ebola, ISIS, Ferguson, implementation of Obamacare, a GOP electoral sweep, and much more. If you want to understand how philanthropy shapes the world in which we live, you need to connect up over $300 billion in annual U.S. charitable donations to what’s happening around us.
Of course, though, gauging philanthropy’s impact is famously hard given the difficulties of isolating the drivers of any kind of change. Top foundations can spend a fortune evaluating whether their money made a difference and still end up with murky answers. Also, it may be years before the dividends of a given investment can become apparent.