Shipbuilding? or, What kind of industry is philanthropy?

I’ve always been interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of collective creative endeavors (film, TV, music, theater). For example, the person with the job title “producer” has very different jobs in film, TV, music, and theater. In film, they’re often the person who comes up with the idea, hires the writer and director, and sees the project through filming to editing to release: Scott Rudin, Jerry Bruckheimer, etc. In TV, the executive producer, or the “showrunner,” is often the creator and the head writer: Joss Whedon, Chuck Lorre, etc. The director in film is lauded as the auteur; in TV, they’re a hired hand who are there to implement the showrunner’s vision. In music, the producer helps the artist or group find a particular expression of their “sound.” The complicated nature of capturing performance in digital bits (I was going to say, “on tape”) makes them part arranger, part sound engineer, part motivator, part songwriter. In theater, the producer is the money, plain and simple.

So I wonder, what kind of industry is philanthropy? Is it perhaps a creative industry? If so, the grantmaker may in some ways be like the producer. But as we’ve seen, that role can take on many aspects. Are different kinds of grantmakers like different kinds of producers – TV vs. film vs. music?

In future posts, I’ll consider this question further. I’ll also look at other industries that philanthropy might be an example of; such a list might include:

  • Financial services
  • Service (as in, “a service industry”)
  • Knowledge

To be continued….

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