Sociologists have long been interested in the origins of generosity, altruism, and solidarity in society. Similarly, this dissertation examines the global origins of philanthropic activity and its consequences. More specifically, I situate philanthropic and charitable activity in what Boli (2006) has called a global moral order that champions virtue and positions voluntary associations, including foundations and charities, as legitimate moral actors for solving global problems (see also Schofer and Longhofer 2011). I begin by using multilevel modeling techniques to examine the effects of national context on membership in charitable and humanitarian organizations in 35 countries. I find that charitable membership is shaped by connections to world society at the country level and cosmopolitanism at the individual level. The next empirical chapter explores the global origins of philanthropic organizations. Through a statistical analysis of grantmaking foundations in a large number of countries from 1970 to 2005, I suggest that philanthropic activity derives in part from ties to world society and the rationalization of the domestic philanthropic sector through local "bridging" organizations. The final empirical chapter examines the impact foundations have on the social sectors in which they operate. Again adopting a global purview, I find that foundations have a positive impact on promoting arts institutions, improving health outcomes for children, and reducing carbon emissions. I conclude the dissertation with a discussion of what these three studies tell us about world society and the role philanthropic organizations play in its construction and enactment.