The desire to help others whether through financial aid or volunteer service is philanthropy. As Robert Rosenkranz says, philanthropy is more than a charitable donation. It is also a desire to better the human situation. Whether it is undertaken by an individual or organization, its aim is to help people develop and improve their lives, unlike charity, which is usually a one-time donation to a cause. In Greek, the word means love for humanity. Philanthropy as social activism emerged in Europe in the in the 18th century when the clubs created by wealthy members of society started to help the disadvantaged. It was a philanthropist who succeeded in ending the slave trade in the British Empire by campaigning against the government for legislative change.
Many corporations have departments devoted to giving financial aid to non-profit organizations. Corporations also encourage their employees to devote some volunteer time in helping others less fortunate. Corporations may also give the use of their facilities for free to non-profit organizations for events and fundraisers. Some corporations give directly from their profits and some create a foundation that disperses funds.
Some institutions that do tremendous good work around the world were started by philanthropists. Henry Dunant used his fortune to start the Geneva Society for Public Welfare in 1863, which is today the International Committee of the Red Cross. He personally led the Red Cross delegations during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. In the United States, Andrew Carnegie spent his wealth on public libraries throughout the U.S. and in other countries. Another example is the donation of $1 billion from Ted Turner to the United Nations.
Philanthropists also contribute to the artistic and cultural development and preservation around the world. They consider that these aspects of human life are worth saving. In this line, T. Boone Pickens gave to Oklahoma State University and Carnegie founded Carnegie Mellon University. The managers of Reader’s Digest gave to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Joan B Kroc gave millions to National Public Radio, and Walt Disney helped fund the California Institute of the Arts.
Venture philanthropy is similar to venture capitalism in that it focuses on capacity building rather than the operating expenses of programs. Venture philanthropists are willing to try new approaches to giving, but they also expect measurable results based on mutually determined benchmarks. They’ll move their donations to different organizations according to the results and give in many ways, including human, financial and intellectual capital. Venture philanthropists are often deeply involved in the non-profits they support and sometimes sit on the boards of the organizations they fund.
Effective altruism is a tool some philanthropists use to decide where to give their money. They use reason and evidence to determine the best way to improve society. This often means they look for the way to improve the most lives. The most common areas where effective altruism philanthropists give are alleviating global poverty, animal welfare, possible future global catastrophes and building an effective altruism movement.
It’s no accident that the word comes from the ancient Greeks. They considered a philanthropist as a state of being productive and of benefit to all of humanity. Today, people help others whether the donors are extremely wealthy or not.