Helen Flannery is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in the Program on Inequality and the Common Good, where she directs the program’s charity reform research work. Helen’s research focuses on the relationship between philanthropy and inequality, including the policies and practices surrounding charitable mega-giving, private foundations, and donor-advised funds.

Prior to coming to IPS, Helen provided nonprofits with reporting, analytics, and industry benchmarking services through her work at Target Analytics and ROI Solutions. At those organizations she also wrote extensively on charitable sector fundraising topics such as direct marketing, sustainer giving, and the economic factors affecting donor behavior.

Latest

The Rise of the Monster DAFs

Rising like monsters from the deep, donor-advised funds (DAFs) have finally caught up with foundations as the wealthy donor’s charitable warehousing vehicle of choice — and are poised to eclipse them.

Reining in Philanthropic Megadonors: What the Data Tell Us Is Needed

While megadonor gifts are celebrated, the growing dominance of large donors speaks to an erosion of democratic values. This must be addressed now.

Report: Gilded Giving 2022

Our nation’s charitable system is in danger of becoming a taxpayer-subsidized platform of private power for the ultra-wealthy.

Giving USA 2022: Charity Sector Stable but Increasingly Top-Heavy

Giving USA 2022 is the gold-standard report on charitable giving in the United States. But this year’s story glosses over two important pieces of long-term context: what has happened to the giving capacity of typical Americans, and where much of the charitable giving has actually gone.

Visualize This: Donor-Advised Funds As Largest Recipients of Charitable Gifts

Watch this stunning time lapse illustration of the rise of donor-advised funds (DAFs) as the largest recipients of charitable gifts.

New Data Tells Us Where Donor-Advised Fund Dollars Go—And Don’t Go

A new research database reveals that many donor-advised fund donations take years to make it to the coffers of operating nonprofits.

Time to Move the Money: Independent Research on Donor-Advised Funds

Charitable giving has become a taxpayer-subsidized extension of private power and influence for the wealthiest people in the country. It’s time to fix that.

How Russian Oligarchs Funnel Money to U.S. Charities

But it is not just Russian oligarchs that have been increasingly abusing charity for financial or political gain; U.S. oligarchs do it too.

Top-Heavy Philanthropy Explained in 8 Charts

How the concentration of wealth is warping the giving sector, from our Charity Reform Initiative.

How Do We Fix Abuses of Donor-Advised Funds?

Donor-advised funds are set up to provide more benefit to their wealthy donors than to public charities. We can fix that.

Phil Knight’s Billion-Dollar Philanthropy: Generosity or Self-Service?

New revelations about the Nike founder’s tax-dodging schemes raise questions about his charitable giving.

More Evidence of Warehousing of Wealth in Donor-Advised Funds

New report finds more than one billion dollars in DAF grants went to other commercial DAFs in 2019.

New Research Suggests DAF Payout Is Worse Than We Thought

We must prevent our charitable system from being misused by those with the means and motivation to do so.

What Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta Means for Charities — and Our Democracy

A new Supreme Court decision enables billionaires to anonymously weaponize their philanthropy.

REPORT: Silver Spoon Oligarchs

How America’s 50 Largest Inherited-Wealth Dynasties Accelerate Inequality

Foundation Payout Mandate Would Raise $8.7 Billion in Revenue Over 3 Years

The mandate would also have both a positive fiscal impact and give a $200 billion boost to active charities.

In a Pandemic, We Need Democracy — Not Billionaire Charity

We need a movement to democratize philanthropy — and the concentrated wealth that increasingly defines it.

Voices from the Field: Giving Pledge at 10, Peril and Possibility

The Giving Pledgers set out to give away half of their wealth. Ten years later, their assets doubled. How do we break this pattern?

How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy

Inequality is making charity increasingly reliant on the rich. Here’s why wealthy people dominating philanthropy a problem and what we can do about it.

Gilded Giving 2020: How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy

How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy