What is Philanthropy to You?

What do you think of when you hear the word philanthropy? What does philanthropy mean to you? Please share your perspectives, thoughts and stories.

10 Responses to What is Philanthropy to You?

  1. Deanna Demory says:

    It means a giving of one’s resources, either time, voice or money, to a cause seen as beneficial for the greater community good.

    • Salvatore Alaimo says:

      Deanna – I am glad to see you have included other resources beyond money because we typically tend to think of philanthropy narrowly as just the giving of money when it is so much more.

      • Deanna Demory says:

        Would be interesting to compare what folks thought “charity” was in comparison, ie. faith, hope and charity. Is it the same as philanthropy, or different, or a subcategory?

      • salaimo says:

        Deanna – You raise an important historical question discussed in our classrooms. Do people give more out of their sense of obligation or influence from their faith or religious convictions, or do they give with intention to change the human condition? Or both? The history of giving in the United States discusses this issue of evolving from charity in the 1600s and 1700s eventually to what we began to view as scientific philanthropy in the late 1800s and early part of the twentieth century. We can argue that these are two distinct forms of giving with different motivations to an extent but at the same time there is overlap between the two. We also need to remind ourselves that people who don’t believe in a higher being or are not religious also give for humanistic reasons.

  2. Philanthropy is sharing one’s resources but it also delves into one’s passion to create and enhance civil society. In the US there are many historic exemplars-from minute men, midwifery, and orphanages to abolition, workers rights and the various corps (Peace, Freedom) movements. It is part of who we are in ideology and in practice. Most of us have been touched many times by philanthropic donors- we belong to a church, enjoyed being a girl scout, parted with some coins to a person in need or have been escorted to a hospital room. Philanthropy is one tool we use to make this world a bit more hospitable and enhance the quality of life–which has a great effect on all of us.

  3. Cheryl Endres says:

    Philanthropy, as the others have indicated is looking outward, rather than inward (i.e. the other, or community well-being is the focus rather than self focus). It is giving of time, energy, knowledge, or money to aid others. Being philanthropic means giving of oneself to improve the human condition. As Theresa noted, helping others also helps us, either through the improvement of the community, or the satisfaction of having contributed to a greater good.

    • salaimo says:

      Cheryl – Thanks for your insightful post that reminds us of the age old debate over how much altruism and egoism play into our giving motivations and behavior. We might argue that pure altruism, giving with no intention of receiving anything in return, does not exist because we at minimum feel satisfied, get that “warm glow,” etc. However, we might also consider that it might not matter as long as we are doing good in the community, and as you say, improving the human condition. If we give in part for this reason and consciously or subconsciously for our own reasons or to please ourselves, it is the end result of our giving that matters most.

  4. Ryan Young says:

    I believe philanthropy to be the appreciation of a cause (often addressing a social problem), organization, or person(s) demonstrated by the giving of time, talent, goods, services, or money. Often, the beneficiaries of such giving are charities that exist for the public good, which I believe to be different than the human condition as discussed above. An environmental nonprofit may exist for the public good and the stewardship of our environment, but does it improve the human condition? The view of the “public good” is somewhat subjective. Is the Humane Society for the public good? An argument could be made for either position: yes or no. Philanthropy is different than merely giving to charity, as not all charities exist for the public good, which gets into the definitions of “charity” versus “tax exempt nonprofits”.

    • salaimo says:

      Ryan -

      Thank you for your insightful comments. You make a great point by raising the question about improving the human condition. You are correct in stating that the public good is a subjective concept. However, we might think about how that subjectivity is reflective of the vast diversity of causes, organizations, motivations and intentions within the world of philanthropy.

      Your comments would be a great start to a meaningful group discussion about philanthropy.

      Salvatore Alaimo

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