Private philanthropy provides venture capital that is essential to the progress of medical research. Although they are heterogeneous and the support they provide is small in comparison to governmental and industrial support, philanthropic foundations fill a crucial, catalytic niche in medical research, and their involvement in this area should be extended. Foundations and the scientific community should pursue policies augmenting private contributions, and they should educate potential donors about the nature of medical research, about the value of philanthropic dollars, and about ways to leverage such support.

Total philanthropic giving for 1997 came to $143.46 billion, with $121.89 billion from individuals and bequests, $13.37 billion from noncorporate foundations, and $8.2 billion from corporate foundations. Just over $14 billion, or 8.8 percent of total contributions received by charities, was in the health category. This segment included support of health services and health facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes; support of...

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