Urban Studies, Ahead of Print. With billions worth of funding to city based projects, urban dwellers and city leaders the world over, philanthropy is no small matter. It might shape the form, politics and direction of urban development worldwide, yet little discussion of its role is present in urban studies. In this commentary, we call for urban scholars and practitioners to become more explicitly conversant in its investment dynamics in cities and their impact on urban governance. We highlight a two pronged research agenda focused on institutions and individuals. First, we argue that we need to understand the impact of philanthropic institutions not just generally on cities but specifically on urban governance. Second, we call for nuanced attention to the philanthropy of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) and its relationship to urban policymaking and wealth redistribution in cities. Third, we highlight the value of a more ‘global urban’ outlook onto the landscape of philanthropic funding in cities, starting with greater attention to philanthropic practices beyond the Global North. We conclude by sketching possible empirical steps towards an action research agenda, whilst underlining the necessary reflexivity that urban scholars should have in their positioning vis a vis philanthropy and its engagement in urban academia.