For-Profit Philanthropy

36 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2008 Last revised: 19 Oct 2009

Date Written: November 4, 2008


This essay examines Google's adoption of the novel and unorthodox for-profit philanthropy model. Google created a division of its for-profit company that is tasked with pursuing philanthropic activities. Specifically, this division is responsible for addressing the global issues of climate change, poverty, and emerging diseases. Of course, companies have long blended philanthropic and business objectives. They make contributions, commit to corporate social responsibility, or even form as social enterprises. For-profit philanthropy, though, differs from these familiar techniques in both structure and scale. Likewise, for-profit philanthropy stands in stark contrast to the nonprofit, tax-exempt form of organization typically used by those pursuing exclusively philanthropic endeavors. This essay investigates the for-profit philanthropy model, drawing out these distinctions as well as the reasons why Google chose to adopt it. These reasons reveal a fascinating mismatch between Google's philanthropic vision and that of nonprofit law. Exploring this divergence exposes the fundamental policy choices underlying the law's structures for philanthropic activity, as well as the undertheorized boundary between nonprofits and for-profits.

Keywords: nonprofit, philanthropy, corporate charitable contributions, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise

Suggested Citation

Brakman Reiser, Dana, For-Profit Philanthropy (November 4, 2008). Fordham Law Review, Spring 2009, Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 124, Available at SSRN:

Dana Brakman Reiser (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street, Rm. 814
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
718-780-0396 (Phone)
718-780-0376 (Fax)

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