Background Information on the Concept of Philanthropy

Definition According to Wikipedia, Philanthropy is “the voluntary giving of time, assistance, or money for the public good”. The term is derived from the Latin word, ‘philanthropia’, meaning “love of man”. In modern days, philanthropy is associated with the disbursement of time, talent, and financial aid by individuals for a wide variety of causes and charities. Some scholars have argued that ‘philanthropy is distinct from the concept of charity, which originated as part of the Judeo-Christian tradition which denotes unselfish direct assistance. All the great religions of the world today, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, recognize and encourage a duty to aid the less fortunate in the society.

Historical Origin of Philanthropy

According scholars, “the philanthropic impulse is as old as recorded history”. In many ancient societies, including those of Greece and Rome, the breakup of self-supporting kinship groups caused by urbanization led to the institution of state-sanctioned measures to aid the infirm (not strong), the poor, and the disadvantaged. During the Middle Ages in Europe, an elaborate network of almshouses, hospitals, and orphanages were supported by donations from the rich and by church collections.

One of the earliest and best-known philanthropists was the Scottish-born American industrialist and founder of the iron and steel industry in the United States, Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919), who devoted the latter part of his life to giving away most of the huge fortune he had earned in the steel industry to charity.