Historically, people associate the term philanthropy with someone who has excessive amounts of money, looking to put it to good use. Celebrities and society’s elite have notably been dubbed (sometimes by themselves) philanthropists in the past, but is it a tag that only applies to the rich and famous?

Many people view philanthropy as a publicity stunt to improve one’s personal reputation. However, the simple definition of philanthropy can remove these negative connotations, and even broaden the term to be applied to everyday members of society looking to create positive change over time.

Merriam-Webster defines a Philanthropist as:

“One who makes an active effort to promote human welfare.”

This alone demonstrates that there is no exclusivity to philanthropy, and that there are countless people who are philanthropists and don’t even know it, or at least don’t willingly claim it as a personal tag.

Also, importantly, there is no minimum financial or effort required to be classed as a philanthropist – more so, the reasons behind your charitable work e.g. what you truly want to achieve with your philanthropic activity. Do you want to provide a happy and healthy childhood to underprivileged children? If so, how do you make that happen? And how do you review the success of your mission?

One determining factor of a modern-day philanthropist is the ‘active effort’ part of the definition. Roughly 60% of all donations are made impulsively and exclusively, meaning there is no extensive thought or pattern to this charity work. This is fine, as every bit of help means so much to all non-profit organisations, but the positive effects are multiplied when the support becomes an ongoing partnership with the people you are helping. Simply, ‘charity’ solves immediate needs, whereas ‘philanthropy’ is the sustained effort to achieve greater goals.

So, how is Australia doing in the philanthropy space?

There are more Australians volunteering than ever before. These people are also twice as likely to make financial donations than those currently not giving their time or money. They also give twice as much when they donate. While there are more people doing great amounts of good, the gap between them and those leaving it up to others has grown.

More families plan their charitable commitments together, educating their kids in the process of who, how, and most importantly, the why. It’s never too early to start, and raising a generation of change makers is key in solving and avoiding future problems. More groups of people, be it at work, schools, or entire organisations are also contributing to non-profits than ever before.

The platforms and processes of philanthropy has changed dramatically in recent years, particularly due to the rise of digital media. Social media has given charities a voice they didn’t previously didn’t have, although there are still many that face the risk of being left behind if they don’t adapt and connect with their audience.

People who are actively searching for a charity to support have an abundance of online resources to aid their decision, as well as making donating as easy as clicking a button. Transforming these one-off donations into long-term partnerships is a new challenge for non-profits.

The charities themselves can now also reach people who aren’t actively searching and educate them on why making a positive impact on someone else’s life can enhance their own.

The reasons for giving to charity are obvious – and you’re probably thinking “yep, I’ve given to charity before”, but understanding the difference between charity and philanthropy can be life changing, for yourself and many others.

So why not take the next step and join the new wave of givers, the everyday philanthropists. While not all of us can add a new wing to a hospital or fund an entire new foundation, everyone can make a lasting difference with a little planning and persistence.

Make your charity work a strategic process for long-term success. You can become the difference between charity and philanthropy.

Reach out to the Cottage, we’d love to discuss your ideas and help achieve your long-term philanthropic mission.