There is a great difference between charity and philanthropy, but it is a difference that is often ignored. Charity is the act of giving money, any amount, and not engaging in the cause. Philanthropy involves giving money, certainly, but also requires personal and proactive involvement.
The traditional image of the billionaire philanthropist is outdated.
Most billionaires have a wealth of contacts, are entrepreneurial and so have vast stores of business expertise. These qualities, more than money alone, are the qualities which make for a successful philanthropist. Building a philanthropic institution or non-profit organisation need be little different from building a business: it requires the same skills and principles, the same amount of effort and focus. For real impact, philanthropic institutions must be well-managed and be highly efficient.
Successful philanthropy - that which makes a measurable difference to people’s lives - requires time and creativity.
True philanthropists seek causes which will allow them to make a long-term impact and will measure the social value of their philanthropic actions. The amount of long-term, personal involvement required from philanthropy means that philanthropists must choose causes which align with their personal values.
Sir Ian Wood, founder of The Wood Foundation, has spent over £120 million on charitable actions in the UK and elsewhere. But he is also very much involved in the work his foundation does. He builds on his experience as an oil magnate to overcome the political challenges of working in Africa. He travels to Africa frequently to personally ensure the foundation’s progress.
Bill Gates has frequently said that effective philanthropy requires first-hand experience. He gave the example of his project to bring computers to impoverished areas of Africa; it was only when he saw the terrible living conditions with his own eyes that he realised that “digital empowerment” was low down in the “hierarchy of needs”.
I am truly passionate about treating, curing and aiding the blind in any way I can.
This passion drives me and allows me to dedicate more than money – I give my time, my entrepreneurial skills, and my contacts. I approach philanthropy with the same care and commitment as I do running my businesses and urge others in my position to follow this example.
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- The Meaning of Philanthropy