Charity is seen as a virtue by humanists and all major religions. But it has also been polarising. Some people believe strongly in it and feel that it reflects the inner heart of humanity, while others believe that it cultivates weakness and dependency amongst the underserving. Even the ancients grappled with the very practical implications of charity.
Nowadays, the news is full of stories of philanthropists who have given their fortunes away to help others and for the betterment of society.
This article explores the concepts of charity and philanthropy, the similarities and differences, and when each is appropriate. It is not a deep dive into these topics, but rather a high-level review.
This has been one of the hardest articles for me to write. I’ve thrown out two earlier versions, started from scratch and done more research and thinking. Even though I’ve been in this field for 22 years, I’ve realized how my passion for social entrepreneurship had obscured my appreciation of charity. I’ve also learned when charity is the only moral and appropriate response to a situation.