What is “Philanthropy”?


Today I attended the local National Philanthropy Day events: a breakfast, a workshop, and an evening gala. In the morning workshop, Andrea McManus, one of Canada's top fundraising professionals, made great distinctions between philanthropy, development and fundraising, and she emphasised how important it is that we focus on the former.

It sounded good, but I honestly didn't quite understand her point. This evening, as I watched the awards presentation and listened to the gracious recipients, the penny dropped, and I suddenly realised what "philanthropy" truly is. 

When we think about philanthropy, we tend to think of the Carnegies and Rockefellers who created the first libraries, concert halls and museums across North America. More recently we think of Bono, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates – men who have made large amounts of money in their chosen fields, and now are re-focusing their energies on redistributing that wealth in humanitarian works that matter to them. That is one style and form of philanthropy, but only one very narrow interpretation. 

A quick linguistics lesson that had me understand: the word "philanthropy" is composed of two Greek roots philos and anthropo. Philos is one of three Greek words for love: agape, God's love for us; eros, physical love, and philos, brotherly love. Anthropo is the Greek word that refers to humans as a group, as in Anthropology. Philanthropy, then, is a brotherly love for humanity – not individual people, but people on the whole. 

Suddenly, I realised the theme of the day, and how we live it out each day at The Cridge Centre. The National Philanthropy Day theme of 'Change the world with a giving heart" is completely consistent with our guiding thought "… Because Love is the Bottom Line." Without love, all of our actions, all of our services, all of our events and communcation are meaningless. 

It also gives me a whole new reading of 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

We appreciate your gifts of time, of talent, and of treasure. And we accept them all as gifts of your love.