Philanthropy is the act of helping others, through various altruistic and supportive attitudes that collaborate with support for other human beings. Donations of clothes, food, money and other charitable actions are some examples.
The word philanthropy originated from the Greek term philanthropia , which can be translated as “love of man” or “love of humanity”.
It can be practiced by individuals ( philanthropists ) or by philanthropic entities , which are usually non-profit groups or organizations (NGOs, for example). However, in both cases, the purpose is to propagate humanitarian and public interest issues, whether in the social, health, environment, education, etc.
In short, the philanthropist makes time and, in most cases, his own money available to help those in need, without expecting anything in return for the support offered.
It is believed that the origin of the concept of philanthropy would have been created by the Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus. He wanted to eliminate Christianity from the Empire and restore paganism. For this, he began to spread philanthropy as an alternative to the idea of Christian charity.
Philanthropy is more related to being able to give something, even time and attention, to other people or to important causes with the sole aim of feeling good, and can be practiced in churches, hospitals, schools, etc.
One of the possible manifestations of philanthropy is volunteering , when someone invests part of their time to contribute to a solidary cause without receiving financial compensation.
Importance to society
Philanthropy has the central role of complementing – and never replacing – the action of public policies and the State with regard to the interests of society, in the most diverse areas, such as Health, Education, Environment and Public Safety, among others.
More than providing assistance or emergency financial resources for what the State is unable to supply at a given time, philanthropy has the main objective of offering new models and proposals for the smooth functioning of society .
Both public policies and philanthropy are essential – and work even better when they dialogue with each other and walk together.
Types of Philanthropy
As Inês Mindlin Lafer states, today it is possible to think of philanthropy in Brazil on two main fronts . “While one of them is focused on assistance, immediate needs and emergency actions, the other is focused on guaranteeing diffuse and collective rights. The two add up and complement each other,” she explains.
In other words, it is important for us to provide assistance in times of need, for example, by organizing campaigns to collect warm clothing and donating basic food baskets in the fight against hunger. However, it is equally essential to promote improvements that, in the medium and long term, can reduce inequalities and strengthen democracy.
That’s what we call strategic philanthropy : when we donate not only to put food on the plate of those who are hungry and warm up for those who feel cold, but also to ensure that more people can have food on their plate and warm clothing in the near future.
Strategic philanthropy seeks positive transformations in our society .
Business philanthropy, also called corporate philanthropy, is when companies make contributions to a cause – either through financial support or through actions in society. There are often tax incentives for this type of practice.
It is important to highlight the difference between corporate philanthropy and social responsibility. A company’s social responsibility is linked to the role of that organization within society and the consequences of its actions, while corporate philanthropy is aimed at any type of action that collaborates for a more just and democratic society.
Individual philanthropy, or that of individuals, as the name implies, is carried out by individuals. It is important for the population to engage socially so that it is possible to establish a broad culture of donating financial resources in Brazil .
According to Inês Mindlin Lafer , “donations from private institutes and very high net worth people, as they are restricted, tend to prioritize areas such as education, social assistance and health. Other themes, such as political participation, strengthening of democracy, inequality, among many others, remain in the background.”
The entry of more individuals into the philanthropic donation scenario, therefore, diversifies the sources of funds and makes it possible to support initiatives in key areas for building an active civil society.
In punctual philanthropy there is no recurrence. One-off or sporadic donations are made, usually related to an emergency – such as natural disasters (floods, droughts, earthquakes, etc.), conflicts or pandemics (such as Covid-19), for example .
It is extremely important to save lives in critical moments, but insufficient to actually transform society.
In recurrent philanthropy, donations are made on a fixed basis, seeking not only to solve an emergency but also to solve, in a broad way, a social problem .
It is directly linked to strategic philanthropy, typically meeting a fixed budget every month or year.
There are several actions that can be classified as philanthropic. Some of the most common examples are:
- Donate clothes to those in need;
- Donating basic food baskets to those who have financial difficulties buying food;
- Donate money to charities that promote various actions to help the less favored;
- Volunteer as an educator;
- Practicing some activity or service on a voluntary basis (doctor, lawyer, etc.).
Difference between philanthropy and misanthropy
Both are opposite concepts. Philanthropy boils down to “love of humanity”, that is, when the purpose is to help people. On the other hand, misanthropy is the outright “hatred of humanity”, when the person (called a misanthrope ) feels uncomfortable interacting with or empathizing with other individuals.
Misanthropy can manifest itself in an extreme way in some social groups, such as hatred of women (misogyny) and hatred of homosexuals (homophobia).
difference between philanthropy and charity
Charity, as we have seen, has its origins in Christian doctrine, having been consolidated over the centuries with institutions of mercy that worked, mostly, in medical and hospital care for needy people – providing food, clothing, care and shelter to people in need .
Philanthropy, on the other hand, does not just help people in urgent need: more than that, it seeks to build a more equal society in which there are fewer people in urgent need.
In the definition of IDIS – Institute for the Development of Social Investment , “people who practice charity are seeking to alleviate the suffering of others, while the tendency of philanthropy is to try to solve the problem that is causing suffering .”
In the contemporary world, therefore, philanthropy can be described, as explained by Inês Mindlin Lafer, founder of Confluentes, director of the Betty and Jacob Lafer Institute and chairman of the board of GIFE (Group of Institutes, Foundations and Companies), as “ voluntary action of private resources for the public good and for public actions ”.