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Philanthropy: Definitions, Effects And Improvements

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Table of contents

  1. Modern definitions of philanthropy
  2. How wealth and elitism impacts philanthropy
  3. How philanthropy can be improved
  4. References

Modern definitions of philanthropy

According to Johnson (2016), philanthropy is defined as the “love of mankind; good nature”. It is the thing done for a good cause with a good heart to help someone. “One old-fashioned view of philanthropy holds that it should simply alleviate individual suffering and do nothing more” (Schmitt, 2015). In olden times, People used to Volunteer for social work without any selfish or personal motives. People use to come along for fighting against the social problems. They used to go to the root cause of the issue and find a lifelong solution. The modern definition of Philanthropy is “Voluntary action for public good” (Payton & Moody, 2016). In contemporary world, it is also called as Charity done for benefitting the needy. Now a day’s, associations are initiating voluntary work programs where they provide a helping hand to the people.

Philanthropy has a wide platform where people from different cultures and religion come together. The social, political, economic, religious, moral and scientific affairs are different categories that people work on for society’s betterment (Payton & Moody, 2016). It is impacting individual’s life and societies with great outcomes.

The key similarities of Philanthropy between modern and olden times is that people still voluntarily work towards the improvement of the system that shows the love and affection towards the society. In golden era people used to donate things that are the necessities like clothes and food. New generation believe in making the world more educated and thus people donate more on education. Donation towards the religious belief has not changed to a greater extent. Leaders having past experiences in voluntary work tends to be great mentors. How do human respond in situations when things go wrong and things can be better are the reason for the existence of Philanthropy (Payton & Moody, 2016).

The differences in past and present Philanthropy is that money has a remarkable impact. Philanthropy has changed to a monetary business in the new era. People nowadays do not want to struggle or take efforts to work for challenges. People support the cause by providing funding. It is also a marketing strategy for fame. In olden times, the process to get to the conclusions were time consuming but the results were long-lasting.

For example, Charity vs. Philanthropy: How Are They Different? (Anonymous,2018) article helps us to understand the major difference in the new and old definition of Philanthropy. There was a disaster relief event and how people react to it. The modern people go for the charity option where they donate money for helping the people on the donation drive pages. The real philanthropists they go by the old definition where they study the whole situation from alertness to prevention and work in a process to save people. The motive was the same in both the case they want to help people and show love but the way to show differs by each individual.

The elements of Philanthropy have changed a lot from the ancient to the modern time. People use to be more emotional during situations whereas in today’s world people try to be more pragmatic when it comes to making decisions, but the great thing is people still care about each other and want to change and improve the society creating it a better place. Helping people have a great impact on our individuals’ life as well as a great impact on the world around you (Payton & Moody, 2016).

How wealth and elitism impacts philanthropy

Answer: “Philanthropy by the wealthy refers to the involvement of wealthy individuals in charitable activities, including donating, participating in volunteer activities, and establishing charitable organizations” (Deng, 2015). In today’s world, philanthropy is dependent on the funds that are raised by the charitable organizations and donations. Wealth plays a major part when it comes to executing the plan. “The moral biography of wealth refers to the way the individuals conscientiously combine in daily life two elements: personal capacity and moral compass” (Schervish,2016). Personal capacity refers to as own financial position and status. Moral compass is our own efforts needed to accomplish the goal.

Elite donors cover the population who are financially stable as well as well-educated people. They support the causes on basis of their financial status. It has a great impact when they donate the funds, but the question arises is that money used wisely for a change in the society? According to the facts and figures given by Luce (2018) states that, “Ken Griffin, the billionaire hedge fund manager, gave $150m to create scholarships in his name at Harvard University. Sandy Weill, the former chief executive of Citi, has given $250m to Cornell University for a medical school in his name. Harvard’s endowment is worth $39bn, which is more than most states spend on their schools”. The figures are in big numbers, but they are not used for making changes in the society instead they are used to get something for name and fame. This is not a positive sign in Philanthropy. Elite donors play a significant role when it comes to be a helping hand to people. Thus, they should understand the major issues that people are being facing and should take initiatives to make the people around them to be aware of the ongoing issues in the society. Wealthy people generally donate all of their amount or some of their amount to charity but that depends on individuals. Some people believe that donating and helping in their presence while some try donating money by preparing a will and give to some charitable trust. (pg. 202)

The major chunk of the donations now a days goes to government programs that provides free education to the students who cannot afford to study and religious foundations who help people grow in their own community. There are as well nonprofit organizations such as NGOs who requires funding. These donations help them fulfilling their basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

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The factors that influences philanthropic giving activities are “personal values, what you hope to accomplish within the organization by giving this gift and What you expect for yourself or the future of your family” (How to Get Started in Philanthropic Activities | Long Island Advisors, 2013). The non-elite donors donate money but don’t have much power. Generally, they are emotionally bonded with their past experiences. I feel even a small amount of donation from all the members in the society can help make a big difference in someone’s life. As we know, small kids learn from environment in their home each family should understand and support the causes and ask the new generation to take it forward.

Philanthropy means try the best to help people but there can’t be any assurances for a perfect result. As suggested by Kent (2016), “To respect person is to respect their autonomy”. Respecting is a form of gesture that makes you feel valuable for the work you are doing for the society. Autonomy can be explained in different ways depending on rights, capacities and competencies (Martin, 2016). Each has its own meaning and stand out for themselves. Right autonomy means where people can make their own decisions on basis of their moral rights. Capacity autonomy is where people can justify themselves and make their decision taking into consideration different people. Competency autonomy is defined as working in such a way that we can reach the achievable goal.

I feel that’s the main reasons affecting Philanthropy is due to bad luck or poor judgement and excessive generosity or insufficient courage. We always try our best to get the results taking into consideration all the possibilities but there are still chances of Human error. The human emotions are too weak when it comes to make decision for their loved ones. The youth generation responses to situations be like “If something’s going to happen it’s going to happen regardless” (Price, 2017). The young generation have an attitude go with the flow. Bad luck is not in the hand of humans and thus they can’t be blamed.

Generosity values comes from your upbringing by the family. Some families are rich some are poor but still the values given to the children matters. “The greatest benefit of generosity is the realization we already have enough” (Beker, n.d.). It is good to donate when you are financially stable, but the ineffectiveness of philanthropy comes when the money donated is not benefitted to the actual cause. Having trust on someone is a good sign of generosity but that is not good in all cases. People should try taking initiating and being aware of the donated amount as transparency is important. By voluntarily disclosing all the information in the public helps us improving transparency (Nie et al., 2016). This technique can be used to motivate people to come forward and take initiative.

People must be willing to take risks. Sometime the past experiences have a negative impact and thus people are not ready to take risks. Big risks sometime can have a great result, but that can’t be true always. At the time of taking big decisions, the team should be working together to achieve the expected goal. Courage plays a significant role when you are taking decisions for big projects or investments. ‘We have to be a lot more courageous about leading with our language and leading with our words’ (Wallace, 2019). People are divided amongst their community which is a weakness to the country. The leaders should have the courage to explain people the difference between right and wrong in the community. People should be self-motivated and have a positive environment and should be courageous to know the difference between right and wrong and fight for the right decision.

How philanthropy can be improved

Answer: Philanthropy has a different definition when we talk about different professions. The modern era consists of people who are well educated with a designated position in their professional life and are still curious to work for peoples benefit. These people want to bring changes in the society with proper utilization of the funded grant. I really like the saying, “People don’t call me Philanthropists, I am trying to be useful” (Handy, 2016). This truly means you are a person who wants to do something beneficial to the society. “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people” (Deng, 2015). The unreasonable people now a days are the young generation. They are smart and knowledgeable who are getting settled at an early stage in their life and thus believe working on the necessary changes. They are trying to focus on the new causes that are upcoming and work on the preventive measures.

Maintaining a gap between the decisions made by the body and the mind is a necessary event. As being humans, we get carried away in an emotional flow if something happens to our family or friends but when it comes to do for a society, we cannot make decisions being emotional. The decisions made by the people in today’s world are approaching practical scenarios and thus technocrats play a major role. The overall approach of philanthropy include that they are focused on the objective, the different steps we need to take to achieve the goal are the “role of value, grantmaking style, relationship with grantees, approach to evaluation and ability to teach and learn philanthropic techniques” (Connolly, 2016). This is the basic process that they take into consideration maintaining a balance between human emotion and the important assets taken into consideration.

Philanthropists in the modern era focuses more on the new practical and long-term approaches because new generation is taking their legacy forward in charitable giving. The new generation are supporting more recent causes that are not impossible to figure out but are time consuming for long lasting results. The new generation as well are getting rich enough to start their own organizations, so they don’t depend on others for their financial security (Breeze, 2016). They like to be more independent as well as achieve their goals having less hinderance.

Responsibilities, Decision making, Management and Educating are few of the techniques that can be used to balance between their head and heart. Responsibilities is having the correct person for the right position and not keeping the near and dear ones at a high-level position. Decision making is best suited for someone that has a pure heart but at the same time is pragmatic. They cannot have their past or present situations such as personal or financial crisis that impacts the decisions taken for the society. Management is the base for any event from the start to the end process. If it is organized perfectly the results would be outstanding, but a small error can have a great impact on the result. Education is required to all the members in the society and thus there are various modes of communicating techniques using hardware and software that can be used for communicating with bilingual people or physically handicapped people. Everyone should be alert about the issues in today’s world and be a part to take the right decision and support the philanthropist to do the best for them.


  1. Anonymous. (2018, December 20). Charity vs. Philanthropy: How Are They Different? Giving Compass.
  2. Anonymous. (2013, September 18). How to Get Started in Philanthropic Activities | Long Island Advisors. R. W. Rogé & Company.
  3. Becker, J. (n.d.). One of the Best Things About Generosity. Becoming Minimalist.
  4. Breeze, P. (2016). How new is the “new philanthropy?”. In M. Moody, & B. Breeze (Eds.),The philanthropy reader (pp. 455-459). Routeledge (Taylor and Francis).
  5. Connolly, P. (2016). Balancing the head and heart in philanthropy. In M. Moody, & B. Breeze (Eds.),The philanthropy reader (pp. 488-492). Routeledge (Taylor and Francis).
  6. Deng, G. (2015). The Influence of Elite Philanthropy on NGO Development in China. Asian Studies Review, 39(4), 554–570.
  7. Handy, C. (2016). The New Philanthropists. In M. Moody, & B. Breeze (Eds.),The philanthropy reader (pp. 453). Routeledge (Taylor and Francis).
  8. Luce, E. (2018, December 21). Is wealthy philanthropy doing more harm than good? Financial Times.
  9. Martin, M. (2016). The harms philanthropy can do. In M. Moody, & B. Breeze (Eds.), The philanthropy reader (pp. 269). Routeledge (Taylor and Francis).
  10. Nie, L., Liu, H. K., & Cheng, W. (2016). Exploring Factors that Influence Voluntary Disclosure by Chinese Foundations. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 27(5), 2374–2400.
  11. Payton, R., & Moody, M. (2016). On the classical and modern meaning of Philanthropy. In M. Moody, & B. Breeze (Eds.),The philanthropy reader (pp. 31-36). Routeledge (Taylor and Francis).
  12. Payton, R., & Moody, M. (2016). Taking philanthropy seriously. In M. Moody, & B. Breeze (Eds.),The philanthropy reader (pp. 9–16). Routeledge (Taylor and Francis).
  13. Price, D. (2017, January 28). Bad luck or bad decision? Daily Republic.
  14. Schervish, P. (2016). Why the Wealthy give. In M. Moody, & B. Breeze (Eds.),The philanthropy reader (pp. 196). Routeledge (Taylor and Francis).
  15. Schmitt, M. (2015). Philanthropy, Politics and Democracy. Society, 52(6), 549–551.
  16. Wallace, N. (2019, July 9). Nonprofit Leaders of Color Speak Out About Struggles and Triumphs. The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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