Community Possibilities

What is Philanthropy? A Conversation with Dr. Sal Alaimo

December 01, 2021 Dr. Salvatore Alaimo Season 1 Episode 17
Community Possibilities
What is Philanthropy? A Conversation with Dr. Sal Alaimo
Show Notes
Dr. Sal Alaimo is a professor and teaches in nonprofit administration and philanthropy and evaluation.  In this conversation, Sal and I talk about the role of nonprofits and giving in our society.  An experienced nonprofit leader and evaluator, Sal has a passion for growing nonprofit leaders and exploring the role of giving in our society.

Robert Payton said that philanthropy is "Voluntary action for the public good." Any giving intended for the public good is a philanthropic good. Sal embodies this in his work.  In addition to teaching and consulting, Sal uses the medium of film to explore the meaning of philanthropy and giving.   

"What is philanthropy?"  Sal's first film, he explores the concept of giving within the American context.  The film is a feature length documentary that portrays and discusses the concept of giving  through a critical lens and a variety of perspectives. Contributors to the documentary include; actor Mike Farrell, NFL quarterback Alex Smith, Evelyn Lauder from the Estee' Lauder Companies, Civil Rights Leader Dr. William G. Anderson, Nell Newman, co-founder of Newman's Own Organics, US Senator Charles Grassley, as well as leading scholars and average citizens. 

In his second film, "Sew What?" Sal explores the mutual benefit of what we, as individuals gain from our support of nonprofits - relationships, social connection, skills, values, and perhaps a changed perspectives.   

We also explore the need for nonprofits and foundations to value and implement evaluations and for evaluators to help build evaluation capacity. Sal encourages nonprofits to ask for evaluation support if it is not included in a proposal and that evaluation actually a program expense. He also provides a thoughtful critique of the role of foundations in solving the intractable problems of our society. It will take nonprofits, foundations and community members who understand their communities all working together to solve the root causes of our problems.

Dr. Sal Alaimo Bio
Salvatore Alaimo is an Associate Professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University, in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in philanthropy and nonprofit administration. Professor Alaimo has published book chapters in The Jossey-Bass Reader on Nonprofit and Public Leadership, Volunteer Administration: Professional Practice, Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations: A Reference Handbook, Handbook of Research on Nonprofit Economics and Management, and International Encyclopedia of Civil Society. He also published journal articles in New Directions for Evaluation, Journal of the Grant Professionals Association and Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership.

Hs background in evaluation includes teaching graduate course in program evaluation at GVSU, serving as internal evaluator for a large nonprofit, consulting and engagement with AEA affiliates in Atlanta and Michigan.

He earned his Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University, and his M.S. in Urban Studies from Georgia State University. He can be reached at or (616) 331-6582.

Music for Community Possibilities was written by Zach Price who also produces the podcast.