The topic of philanthropy is prevalent in media and popular culture. Famous philanthropists often become household names due to their propensity for donating immense sums of money to altruistic organizations. They are often role models for the next generation of successful entrepreneurs to emulate. But why is philanthropy so impactful in facilitating change, and what’s in it for those who selflessly entrust millions of dollars to people whom they have never met?
Before discussing the specifics of philanthropy, it is important to differentiate philanthropy from charity, with which it is often confused.
Philanthropy and Charity
Philanthropy and charity are different concepts despite the frequent conflation of the two. A philanthropist intends to utilize monetary donations to eradicate the source of a particular societal inequity, or perhaps several. A charitable individual donates to alleviate the suffering caused by societal inequities. This explanation seems to suggest that philanthropy is superior to charity, but both methods of financial contribution are equally important because they serve to benefit the well-being of those in need.
For example, a philanthropist may seek to end catastrophic flooding in a town or a region by allocating money to fund a construction project to build a dam, while a charitable person or organization would offer relief for the families affected by the floods, using the money to pay for food and shelter. This situation demonstrates how effective it can be when the two forms of relief work in tandem, not only solving a problem but minimizing the harm it causes, as well.
Why Philanthropists Give
Entrepreneurs and celebrities participate in philanthropy for a variety of reasons. Some individuals come from impoverished backgrounds and feel the desire to give back to those who are in similar situations. Others have been affected by a particular social or physical malady and intend to forfeit a portion of their income to fund research relating to that area of expertise. There are also people who simply want to contribute their capital to a more spiritually fulfilling purpose than personal or entrepreneurial finance.
Regardless of a philanthropist’s personal reasons for giving, the results are much the same.
The Impacts of Philanthropy
Helping the Community
Though communities are often regarded as physical locations, a community is not exclusively geographical in nature. The term can also refer to a population that shares a specific ethnicity, gender, religious background, race, or sexual orientation. Communities comprised of a combination of the aforementioned factors are especially vulnerable to social and economic instability.
Philanthropy helps underserved communities thrive by providing financial support for much-needed services and programs. Philanthropists such as Bill Malloy III have established networks for wealthy benefactors that operate by streamlining communication and business connections to better assist under-resourced demographics.
Improving the Lives of Individuals
In addition to uplifting certain groups of people, philanthropy has the power to improve the lives of individuals who do not necessarily belong to a societal entity. For instance, organizations that devote their time and resources to preventing, treating, and curing diseases provide exemplary avenues for making a difference in the lives of afflicted persons and their loved ones. Philanthropists who involve themselves in these types of causes provide the resources and access to care that is necessary for developing a better, more fulfilling quality of life for those who are affected.
Philanthropy performs an essential role in a world that is constantly plagued with humanitarian crises and societal inequality. By distributing funds to administer aid, philanthropy also brings public attention to certain issues that must be addressed. This spotlight may generate capital from multiple sources, such as governments, other philanthropists, and even everyday people who feel the need to contribute to the solution. Without the philanthropist’s drive to enact change, it would be increasingly difficult to build a better world for all.