What is Philanthropy?

from Nonprofit Quarterly

Philanthropy can be defined in many complex ways. The Business Dictionary’s definition of philanthropy is: noun

  1. A Greek term which directly translated means “love of mankind.” Philanthropy is an idea, event, or action that is done to better humanity and usually involves some sacrifice as opposed to being done for a profit motive. Acts of philanthropy include donating money to a charity, volunteering at a local shelter, or raising money to donate to cancer research.

The Ancient Greek view of philanthropy-that the “love of what it is to be human” is the essential nature and purpose of humanity, culture and civilization-was intrinsically philosophical, containing both metaphysics and ethics.


Although philanthropy has some commonalities with charity, not all charity is philanthropy, although there will always be overlap.

Top 10 Philanthropy Articles

To read more on understanding what philanthropy is please refer to a select list of Nonprofit Quarterly’s must-read philanthropy articles below (or visit the philanthropy section of our website for the latest news and reports):

  1. Building a Culture of Philanthropy in Your Organization
  2. Philanthropy as Key Ingredient to American Capitalist Economy
  3. Wait-What is Venture Philanthropy, Again?
  4. Community Philanthropy: It’s Not Just for the Wealthy Anymore
  5. Attention Philanthropy: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategy
  6. The Role of Philanthropy and Advocacy in Healthcare Reform Implementation
  7. Contest Philanthropy at the Council on Foundations: A Troubling Dynamic
  8. Rural Foundations’ Ideas for Increasing Rural Philanthropy
  9. Government Funding or Philanthropy: What’s Better for Society?
  10. Moneyball Philanthropy – Is the Work of the Nonprofit Sector Like Baseball?