Generally, when we hear of a person being called a philanthropist we think of someone who’s loaded with cash and generously handing it out to just about anyone who asks for it: “the love of humanity”: the type of person we want to be friends with!
But, is the giving of money a true definition of philanthropy? Wikipedia defines it as “private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life“. That pretty well includes any person who has the good of God’s creation at heart! This would include your local minister, priest, doctor, veterinarian, environmentalist, herbalist, in fact, anyone who holds a title or certificate as a professional in the service of bettering the conditions of humanity or the environment.
On the other hand, does simply holding a service title make you a philanthropist? For example, I may consider myself a youth councillor, and may even be the head of a youth organization and have years of publicly condoned good work under my belt, but secretly, I could be a pedophile, as has been the case with many persons in the news. Can I still consider myself a philanthropist?
One may be a multi millionaire and have many photo ops to his or her credit showing him or her giving thousands, even millions to some well known charity while, unknown to the public, they might have made their millions on the backs of factory workers that were kept under near slave conditions, or they might have caused the deforestation of hundreds of acres of Brazilian forests to feed their hungry chemical factories. Can such a person be called a true philanthropist? Hardly!
As Investopedia defines philanthropy, “Philanthropy must be more than just a charitable donation; it is an effort undertaken by an individual or organization based on an altruistic desire to improve human welfare”. And here, I emphasize the word, altruistic. Although persons like Billionaire Bill Gates, Jami Gertz of the Ressler-Gertz Foundation, and musician, Herb Alpert of the Herb Alpert Foundation give millions to charity, not every public or famous donor should be called a philanthropist. Although persons like Gates and Alpert are to be lauded for their generosity, true philanthropy–true charity, has to come from the heart and has to involve personal involvement in the act of charity: the action has to come from the depths of one’s very soul. I would classify such persons as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Desman Tutu who gave their all, not just a portion of their money to the public good, as true philanthropists.