AskDefine | Define philanthropist

Dictionary Definition

philanthropist n : someone who makes charitable donations intended to increase human well-being [syn: altruist]

User Contributed Dictionary



Greek; loving + man: French philanthrope.


  1. A person who loves mankind (the human race) in general.
  2. A very generous person or institution.


person who loves mankind
very generous person

See also

Extensive Definition

Philanthropy is the act of donating money, goods, time, or effort to support a charitable cause, usually over an extended period of time and in regard to a defined objective. In a more fundamental sense, philanthropy may encompass any altruistic activity which is intended to promote good or improve human quality of life. Someone who is well known for practicing philanthropy may sometimes be called a philanthropist. Although such individuals are often very wealthy, people may nevertheless perform philanthropic acts without possessing great wealth.
Philanthropy is a major source of income for artistic, musical, religious, and humanitarian causes, as well as educational institutions ranging from schools to universities (see patronage).
During the past few years, philanthropy has become more mainstream in terms of press coverage, owing to the high profile of rock star Bono's campaign to alleviate Third World debt to developed nations; the Gates Foundation's massive resources and ambitions, such as its campaigns to eradicate malaria and river blindness; and billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway Chair Warren Buffett's donation in 2006 of $30 billion to the Gates Foundation.

Philosophical views on philanthropy

Philanthropy is not always viewed as a universal good. Notable thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche opposed philanthropy on philosophical grounds, connecting it with the idea of the weak sponging off the strong, a view sometimes endorsed by those who oppose government welfare programs.
The purpose of philanthropy is also debated. Some equate philanthropy with benevolence and charity for the poor and needy. Others hold that philanthropy can be any altruistic giving towards any kind of social need that is not served, underserved, or perceived as unserved or underserved by the market.
Some believe that philanthropy can be a means to build community by growing community funds and giving vehicles. When communities see themselves as being resource rich instead of asset poor, the community is in a better position to solve community problems.
Philanthropy responds to either present or future needs. The charitable response to an impending disaster is an essential function of philanthropy. Meanwhile, philanthropists behind the U.S. population movement of the 1960s and 1970s were never recognized, and are lost to history.

Political views on philanthropy

People are often supportive of philanthropic efforts. In many countries, those who donate money to a charity are given a title of good or one of great. Some governments are suspicious of philanthropic activities as possible grabs for favor,yet they allow for special interest groups (and votes/power in democracies) of portions of the population by non-governmental organizations. Philanthropics desire a government by the people who need them most and who have the least say.

Social activism and philanthropy

Social activists frequently criticize philanthropic contributions by corporations whom activists consider suspect. Harvard University divested itself of Exxon stock after pressure and accusations that Exxon's business activities in South Africa contributed to apartheid. But when asked if they still wanted to receive philanthropic contributions from Exxon, Harvard said "yes". Some considered this morally inconsistent, others would consider it a warranted penance. If Harvard remained a stockholder, it could have voted to stop operations in the country. Instead, it sold the stock in protest.
It is also relevant to point out that the only way to relieve Third World debt, as rock star Bono’s campagn suggests, is at the expenses of taxpayers. But Bono himself has transferred his own company from Dublin to The Netherlands where taxes are much lower.

Uses of the word

Conventional Usage

By the conventional definition of philanthropy, donations are dedicated to a narrowly defined cause and the donation is targeted to effectuate a recognizable change in social conditions. This often necessitates large donations and financial support sustained over time.
The need for a large financial commitment creates a distinction between philanthropy and charitable giving, which typically plays a supporting role in a charitable organization initiated by someone else. Thus, the conventional usage of philanthropy applies mainly to wealthy persons, and sometimes to a trust created by a wealthy person with a particular cause or objective targeted.
Many non-wealthy persons have dedicated – thus, donated – substantial portions of their time, effort and wealth to charitable causes. These people are not typically described as philanthropists because individual effort alone is seldom recognized as instigating significant change. These people are thought of as charitable workers but some people wish to recognize these people as philanthropists in honor of their efforts.
A growing trend in philanthropy is the development of giving circles, whereby individual donors -- often a group of friends -- pool their charitable donations and decide together how to use the money to benefit the causes they care about most.


External links

philanthropist in Bulgarian: Филантроп
philanthropist in Czech: Filantrop
philanthropist in Danish: Filantrop
philanthropist in German: Philanthropie
philanthropist in Estonian: Filantroopia
philanthropist in Spanish: Filantropía
philanthropist in French: Philanthropie
philanthropist in Croatian: Filantrop
philanthropist in Indonesian: Filantropis
philanthropist in Italian: Filantropia
philanthropist in Lithuanian: Labdarys
philanthropist in Dutch: Filantroop
philanthropist in Japanese: フィランソロピー
philanthropist in Norwegian: Filantropi
philanthropist in Polish: Filantropia
philanthropist in Portuguese: Filantropia
philanthropist in Russian: Филантроп
philanthropist in Slovak: Filantrop
philanthropist in Slovenian: Človekoljubje
philanthropist in Finnish: Filantropia
philanthropist in Ukrainian: Філантропія
philanthropist in Chinese: 慈善家

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Maecenas, Robin Hood, Santa Claus, almoner, almsgiver, angel, assignor, awarder, backer, benefactor, benefactress, benevolist, bestower, cheerful giver, conferrer, consignor, contributor, do-gooder, donator, donor, fairy godmother, feoffor, financer, funder, giver, grantor, humanitarian, imparter, lady bountiful, patron, patroness, power for good, presenter, settler, social worker, sponsor, subscriber, sugar daddy, supporter, testate, testator, testatrix, vouchsafer, welfare statist, welfare worker, well-doer
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