Philanthropy (from Greek φιλανθρωπία) 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. The most conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life". This combines the social scientific aspect developed in the 20th century with the original humanistic tradition, and serves to contrast philanthropy with business (private initiatives for private good, focusing on material prosperity) and government (public initiatives for public good, focusing on law and order).
Instances of philanthropy commonly overlap with instances of charity, though not all charity is philanthropy, or vice versa. The difference commonly cited is that charity relieves the pains of social problems, whereas philanthropy attempts to solve those problems at their root causes (the difference between giving a hungry person a fish, and teaching them how to fish). A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.
The word was first coined as an adjective by the playwright Aeschylus in Prometheus Bound (5th century BC), to describe Prometheus' character as "humanity loving" (philanthropos tropos), for having given to the earliest proto-humans who had no culture, fire (symbolizing technological civilization) and "blind hope" (optimism). Together, they would be used to improve the human condition, to save mankind from destruction. Thus humans were distinguished from all other animals by being a civilization with the power to complete their own creation through education (self-development) and culture (civic development), expressed in good works benefiting others. The new word, φιλάνθρωπος philanthropos, combined two words: φίλος philos, "loving" in the sense of benefitting, caring for, nourishing; and ἄνθρωπος anthropos, "human being" in the sense of "humanity", or "human-ness." The first use of the noun form philanthrôpía came shortly thereafter (c. 390 BC) in the early Platonic dialogue Euthyphro. Socrates is reported to have said that his "pouring out" of his thoughts freely (without charge) to his listeners was his philanthrôpía. The ancient Greek word for culture as education was paideia.
In the first century BC, both paideia and philanthrôpía were translated into Latin by the single word humanitas, which was also understood to be the core of liberal education studia humanitatis, the studies of humanity, or simply "the humanities". In the second century AD, Plutarch used the concept of philanthrôpía to describe superior human beings. This Classically synonymous troika, of philanthropy, the humanities, and liberal education, declined with the destruction of the classical world by Christianity. During the Middle Ages, philanthrôpía was superseded by caritas charity, selfless love, valued for salvation. Philanthropy was modernized by Sir Francis Bacon in the 1600s, who is largely credited with preventing the word from being owned by horticulture. Bacon considered philanthrôpía to be synonymous with "goodness", which correlated with the Aristotelian conception of virtue, as consciously instilled habits of good behavior. Then in the 1700s, an influential lexical figurehead by the name of Samuel Johnson simply defined philanthropy as "love of mankind; good nature". This definition still survives today and is often cited more gender-neutrally as the "love of humanity." However, it was Noah Webster who would more accurately reflect the word usage in American English.
The precise meaning of philanthropy is still a matter of some contention, its definition being largely dependent on the particular interests of the writer employing the term. Nevertheless, there are some working definitions to which the community associated with the field of "philanthropic studies" most commonly subscribes. One of the more widely accepted of these is the one employed by Lester Salamon, who defines philanthropy as "the private giving of time or valuables (money, security, property) for public purposes; and/or one form of income of private non-profit organizations".
The Ancient Greek view of philanthropy — that the "love of what it is to be human" is the essential nature and purpose of humanity, culture and civilization — was intrinsically philosophical, containing both metaphysics and ethics. The Greeks adopted the "love of humanity" as an educational ideal, whose goal was excellence (arete)—the fullest self-development, of body, mind, and spirit, which is the essence of liberal education. The Platonic Academy's philosophical dictionary defined Philanthropia as "a state of well-educated habits stemming from love of humanity, a state of being productive of benefit to humans". Just as Prometheus' human-empowering gifts rebelled against the tyranny of Zeus, philanthropia was also associated with freedom and democracy. Both Socrates and the laws of Athens were described as "philanthropic and democratic".
The destruction of Classical civilization by Christianity replaced philanthropy with Christian theology and soteriology, administered through the Roman Catholic Church's ecclesiastical and monastic infrastructures. Gradually there emerged a non-religious agricultural infrastructure based on peasant farming organized into manors, which were in turn organized for law and order by feudalism. For a thousand years classical humanism hibernated in forgotten manuscripts of monastic libraries.
When it was rediscovered in the Italian Renaissance, humanism consisted of a specific academic curriculum: grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, and moral philosophy, or ethics, designed to train laymen for effective leadership in business, law, and government. One of the clearest literary expressions of Renaissance humanist philosophy is Pico della Mirandola's famous 15th-century Oration on the Dignity of Man, which echoes the philanthropic myth of human creation, though with the Christian God as the Promethean Creator. Francis Bacon in 1592 wrote in a letter that his "vast contemplative ends" expressed his "philanthropia", and his 1608 essay On Goodness defined his subject as "the affecting of the weale of men ... what the Grecians call philanthropia". Henry Cockeram, in his English dictionary (1623), cited "philanthropie" as a synonym for "humanitie"(in Latin, humanitas) — thus reaffirming the Classical formulation.
Philanthropy began to reach its modern form in the Age of Enlightenment — after the Wars of Religion in 17th century Europe, secular alternatives such as Rationalism Empiricism and Science, inclined philosophers toward a more progressive view of history. This tendency achieved an especially pure articulation in the Scottish Enlightenment, especially in the works of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury and Francis Hutcheson, who proposed that philanthropy is the essential key to human happiness, conceived as a kind of "fitness"—living in harmony with Nature and one's own circumstances. Self-development, manifested in good deeds toward others, was the surest way to live a pleasing, fulfilling, and satisfying life, as well as to help build a commonwealth community.
Influenced by these ideas, and as a facet of the expansion of civil society, charitable and philanthropic activity among voluntary associations and rich benefactors became a widespread cultural practice. Societies, gentleman's clubs and mutual associations began to flourish in England and the upper-classes increasingly adopted a philanthropic attitude toward the disadvantaged. This new social activism was channeled into the establishment of charitable organizations; these proliferated from the middle of the century.
This emerging upper-class fashion for benevolence resulted in the incorporation of the first charitable organizations. Captain Thomas Coram, appalled by the number of abandoned children living on the streets of London, set up the Foundling Hospital in 1741 to look after these unwanted orphans in Lamb's Conduit Fields, Bloomsbury. This was the first such charity in the world and served as the precedent for incorporated associational charities everywhere.
Jonas Hanway, another notable philanthropist of the era established The Marine Society in 1756 as the first seafarer's charity, in a bid to aid the recruitment of men to the navy. By 1763, the society had recruited over 10,000 men and it was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1772. Hanway was also instrumental in establishing the Magdalen Hospital to rehabilitate prostitutes. These organizations were funded by subscription and run as voluntary associations. They raised public awareness of their activities through the emerging popular press and were generally held in high social regard — some charities received state recognition in the form of the Royal Charter.
Philanthropists, such as anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce, began to adopt active campaigning roles, where they would champion a cause and lobby the government for legislative change. This included organized campaigns against the ill treatment of animals and children and the campaign that eventually succeeded in ending the slave trade throughout the British Empire at the turn of the 19th century.
During the 19th century, a profusion of charitable organizations were set up to alleviate the awful conditions of the working class in the slums. The Labourer's Friend Society, chaired by Lord Shaftesbury in the United Kingdom in 1830, was set up to improve working class conditions. This included the promotion of allotment of land to labourers for "cottage husbandry" that later became the allotment movement. In 1844 it became the first Model Dwellings Company — organizations that sought to improve the housing conditions of the working classes by building new homes for them, at the same time receiving a competitive rate of return on any investment. This was one of the first housing associations, a philanthropic endeavour that flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century brought about by the growth of the middle class. Later associations included the Peabody Trust and the Guinness Trust. The principle of philanthropic intention with capitalist return was given the label "five per cent philanthropy".
In 1863, the Swiss businessman Henry Dunant used his personal fortune to found the Geneva Society for Public Welfare, which became the International Committee of the Red Cross. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Dunant personally led Red Cross delegations that treated soldiers. He shared the first Nobel Peace Prize for this work in 1901.
Philanthropy became a very fashionable activity among the expanding middle classes in Britain and America. Octavia Hill and John Ruskin were an important force behind the development of social housing and Andrew Carnegie exemplified the large scale philanthropy of the newly rich in industrialized America. In Gospel of Wealth (1889), Carnegie wrote about the responsibilities of great wealth and the importance of social justice. He established public libraries throughout the English-speaking countries as well as contributing large sums to schools and universities. Other American philanthropists of the early 20th century were John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford. The sheer size of their endowments directed their attention to addressing the causes and instruments, as distinct from the symptoms and expressions, of social problems and cultural opportunities.
In recent decades, wealth creators in new high tech sectors have turned to second careers in philanthropy at earlier ages, creating large foundations. Individual philanthropy began to be chic, attracting celebrities from popular arts. Commercial movies and television adopted the idea, and many initiatives have been led by wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Nonetheless, according to studies by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the rich (those making over $100,000 a year) give a smaller share, averaging 4.2%, to charity than those poorer (between $50,000 and $75,000 a year), who give an average of 7.6%.
Organizations such as Opportunity International and Kiva (microlending), Raise5 (microvolunteering), or Charitykick (micro-donating) leverage crowdfunding philanthropy to raise money for charity. Global Giving allows individuals to crowd-fund community development projects in low-income countries. GiveDirectly facilitates direct cash transfers to individual low-income households in East Africa. Zidisha is a nonprofit person-to-person microlending website which uses an eBay-style marketplace to allow individuals in developing countries to crowd-fund loans from individual web users worldwide. Vittana is an online platform that allows low-income youth in developing countries to crowd-fund tuition for higher education.
Note: These are nominal values and have not been adjusted for inflation
National Public Radio announced yesterday that it had received a bequest worth at least $200 million from the widow of the longtime chairman of the McDonald's restaurant chain.... Few cultural institutions have been the beneficiaries of gifts as large as that received by NPR, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. One of the largest, worth $424 million, was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by foundations built on the Reader's Digest fortune.
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