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The Importance of Philanthropy

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.

the importance of philanthropy
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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?

9 Comments

  1. […] do, but seeking to help build them up as a contributing member of society is even better. For me, philanthropy aims to instill confidence, dignity, and a sense of purpose back into those that so many in society can often forget. Charity is to be encouraged and is still […]

  2. Kalpana solsi Kalpana solsi July 19, 2015

    Never did dwell on the difference between charity and philanthropy . Corrine thanks for making things crystal clear.

    Philanthropy moves to a more egalitarian society and our own Azim Premji is a very good example.

  3. Vishal Bheeroo Vishal Bheeroo July 19, 2015

    Philanthropy matters a lot where we can help someone in need through education and I agree, it’s important to learn and respect the culture of people with whom we are working. Years back, I was involved with an organisation for education of girl’s child but after reading this post, feel it’s not enough and more need to be done. Thanks Corinne for writing on this beautiful post and making a distinction between charity and philanthropy

  4. Lata Lata July 18, 2015

    Corinne, never really gave much thought to the distinction between charity and philanthropy. Now, I know and thank you for that!

  5. Amy Amy July 17, 2015

    My husband and I have volunteered lot over the years. It got to the point, though where we were doing it too much. We weren’t taking care of ourselves, were not spending enough time with our own pets, taking care of our own house, etc. So now we are very selective. I love philanthropists. I am always happy to see people helping others. Giving what they can. And I respect successful, mega-rich business people and celebrities giving back.

  6. BellyBytes BellyBytes July 17, 2015

    I agree with you about the difference between charity and philanthropy. Indeed it is people who fill in the gaps where government fails to perform. But very often the philanthropic project as it is in the beginning, when it gets institutionalised, perforce becomes more bureaucratic. Often times I find that as the organisation grows, the administrative costs increase thereby eating into the corpus intended for the beneficiaries. This doesn’t however, negate the good work of philanthropists who ensure that many needy people get the right help at the right time.

  7. Nancy Hill Nancy Hill July 17, 2015

    Such a useful distinction! There are ways to be philanthropic even when we engage outside of the monetary system! Who knew? Thanks!

  8. CAROL CASSARA CAROL CASSARA July 17, 2015

    Thanks for this distinction. I had the idea that philanthropy meant big big bucks.

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