Philanthropy etymologically means “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing “what it is to be human” on both the benefactors’ (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and beneficiaries’ (by benefiting) parts. – via Wikipedia

More and more, José and I are looking at how we move from charity to philanthropy to make a real and lasting difference. We’ve been doing some research on this and I thought I’d share it with you.

All across the world we see the importance of philanthropy because it focuses on solving social problems, not simply alleviating them for the short term. Charity helps in emergencies for the short-term and is also an important part of relieving problems, but as Robert Rosenkranz explains, philanthropy provides long-term benefits through education, leadership effectiveness programs, revitalizing communities and public health impacting the present and the future.

Philanthropy Works When Government Doesn’t

We know how governments and politicians function! It’s not just about money and resources being siphoned off. It also depends on the political philosophy and agence. When political parties disagree on budget deals, the social programs that are intended to help people improve their lives may be reduced. Philanthropic giving is not affected by this and can function through private citizens and donations that continue to benefit society.

How Does One Determine The Success Of Philanthropic Efforts?

Each philanthropist must have a personal definition of success. However, there are several criteria that may be used by everyone.

• The program reflects the beliefs and values of the philanthropist.
• The philanthropist has a clear strategy of what they will do and not do.
• The strategy allows for progress to be measured.

The philanthropist must conduct focused research to determine where there is a need that conforms to his or her beliefs and values. For example, if they are interested in literacy for children under 15 years, they may need to research the geographical areas where literacy is failing and find the reasons. They must also decide what they can personally do towards raising the literacy rate for children. This may be funding schools, employing more teachers, creating after-school programs or lobbying local politicians/ legislature.

Success Is Not Stagnant

Once a philanthropist begins serious work in his or her chosen field, other opportunities may present themselves. It’s important for any program to be flexible enough to encompass the unexpected. For example, while researching literacy, the philanthropist may encounter extreme poverty or lack of opportunity for some children to attend school. These problems may require a different approach, and the success of the original endeavor will depend on also addressing these problems. If one program tries to help every aspect of life that surrounds illiteracy, its resources may become too thin and not give enough help in any area to be successful. This is where several programs may join. For example, one may be for reducing poverty and another for promoting school attendance.

Here are some guidelines that I think must be adhered to

• Learn about the culture and geography of the area in which you will work.
• Learn about the successes and failures of others trying to help in the same area.
• Ask if the people you aim to help ready and willing to be helped in your specific area.
• Ask if there are other philanthropists addressing the same issue.
• Ask if there are programs that are working and some that are not working.
• Determine a time-frame where your area becomes self-sufficient and no longer requires your help?

Philanthropy goes a long way to solving many social problems that governments may not be able to reach. Private individuals who have gained wealth may want to give back to society and help others get a firm foundation for the rest of their lives.

Do you have any experience, ideas or suggestions on philanthoropic projects?