Notable Examples of Philanthropy
The National Philanthropic Trust references the word philanthropy in a history of modern philanthropy. This word comes from the Greek word philanthropia, meaning the love of mankind. Throughout history, human civilization has depended upon kindness directed towards strangers. Modern philanthropy has roots in the ancient world. The ancient Greeks considered philanthropy fundamental to democracy, and many countries and cultures have practiced various forms of philanthropy.
In this context, a philanthropist is someone who donates time, money and/or reputation to charitable causes. The label of philanthropist is most often applied to one that donates large sums of money or makes a major impact through volunteerism. A philanthropist is also someone who cares for someone else’s needs instead of their own needs. A very early philanthropist was Herodes Atticus, a Greek Philanthropist of Classical Rome who was active during the second century.
When one follows the question, who was the father of modern philanthropy, two names come to immediate mind. The first, according to Independent, was George Peabody. He is a rag to riches story. He was one of seven children born in 1795 in Massachusetts. He began working at age 11 in a general store and was a store manager by age 17. He became a partner in a wholesale dry goods business and was worth $40,000 by the age of 22. During his life he gave away an estimated $9 million. The Congressional medal honored his $2 million given to education ($30 million in today’s value). The Peabody Trust benefits the U.K. The causes he supported spanned both England and the U.S.
Another father of modern philanthropy noted was Andrew Carnegie, who was a pioneer, visionary and innovator, according to the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. He was born in Scotland and came to America in 1848 when his father decided to find better conditions for the working class that he could not find in Scotland. By the age of 30, Andrew Carnegie had amassed business interests in iron works, steamers on the Great Lakes, railroads, oil wells and the steel industry. His philanthropic career began around 1870. In his lifetime, he supported more than 2,500 libraries throughout many countries. His intention was to give virtually his entire fortune during his lifetime, which was at least $480 million. He eventually gave away $350 million of his fortune. He encouraged others to give during their lifetime to benefit society.
Forbes points out that the wealthiest Americans make millions or in some cases billions of dollars in charitable donations each year. In 2015, Forves calculated which of America’s Top 50 Givers gave away the most over their lifetimes, as a percentage of their current net worth. The lifetime giving figures were largely self-reported.
The top ten philanthropists are as follows:
- Chuck Feeney: Lifetime Giving $7.5B (373,000 percent of current net worth)
- Karen and Jon Huntsman Sr.: Lifetime Giving $1.55B (160 percent of current net worth)
- Barron Hilton: Lifetime Giving $1.3B (137 percent of current net worth)
- Gordon and Betty Moore: Lifetime Giving $5.37B (71 percent of current net worth)
- Eli and Edythe Broad: Lifetime Giving $4.22B (57 percent of current net worth)
- Irwin and Joan Jacobs: Lifetime Giving $706M (50 percent of current net worth)
- George Soros: Lifetime Giving $12.1B (49 percent of current net worth)
- Julian Robertson Jr.: Lifetime Giving $1.56B (43 percent of net worth)
- Bill and Melinda Gates: Lifetime Giving $32.91B (41 percent of current net worth)
- Warren Buffett: Lifetime Giving $25.54B (39 percent of current net worth)
According to another articles published in Forbes, in 1994, “The Seven Faces of Philanthropy: A New Approach to Cultivating Major Donors,” was published.
In determining why wealthy donors give, research indicates that the following seven attributes relate to distinct wealthy donor personalities:
- Communitarians: Doing good just makes sense to make a community a better place.
- Devout: Doing God’s will by sharing blessings with others.
- Investors: They see giving as good business by helping wise nonprofits.
- Socialites: Helping nonprofits by having a good time.
- Altruists: They give out of a sense of moral imperative.
- Repayers: They give out of a sense of gratitude.
- Dynasts: Those that inherit wealth and are expected to support nonprofits.
By using segmentation methodology, nonprofits can be more effective in soliciting current and planned gifts from the affluent. It is important to understand the concept of philanthropy and why every segment of society gives to help others. By understanding this complex and dynamic concept, you will be a more effective fundraiser and nonprofit executive. We applaud the wealthy that lead the way in promoting philanthropy. We hope this trend not only continues but expands!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.