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Philanthropy (from Greek ) means etymologically, the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing what it means to be human. In this meaning, it involves both the benefactor in their identifying and exercising their values, and the beneficiary in their receipt and benefit from the service or goods provided. A conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life," which combines an original humanistic tradition with a social scientific aspect developed in the 20th century. The definition also serves to contrast philanthropy with business endeavors, which are private initiatives for private good, e.g., focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.

Philanthropy has distinguishing features from charity; not all charity is philanthropy, or vice versa, though there is a recognized degree of overlap in practice. A difference commonly cited is that charity aims to relieve the pain of a particular social problem, whereas philanthropy attempts to address the root cause of the problem—the difference between the proverbial gift of a fish to a hungry person, versus teaching them how to fish.

The literal, classical definitions and understandings of the term philanthropy derive from its origins in the Greek , which combines the word φίλος (philos) for "loving" and ἄνθρωπος (anthropos) for "human being" (see below).

The most conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life". This combines the social scientific aspect developed in the century with the original humanistic tradition, and serves to contrast philanthropy with business (private initiatives for private good, focusing on material prosperity) and government (public initiatives for public good, focusing on law and order). These distinctions have been analyzed by Olivier Zunz, and others.

Organizations and institutions
  • Aknin, Lara B.; Barrington-Leigh, Christopher P.; Dunn, Elizabeth W.; Helliwell, John F.; Burns, Justine; Biswas-Diener, Robert; Kemeza, Imelda; Nyende, Paul; Ashton-James, Claire E. & Norton, Michael I. (2013). "Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence For a Psychological Universal." (print, online). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 104 (4, April): 635–652. doi:10.1037/a0031578. "This research provides the first support for a possible psychological universal: Human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others (prosocial spending). …survey data from 136 countries were examined and showed that prosocial spending is associated with greater happiness around the world, in poor and rich countries alike. …recalling a past instance of prosocial spending has a causal impact on happiness across countries that differ greatly in terms of wealth (Canada, Uganda, and India). …participants in Canada and South Africa randomly assigned to buy items for charity reported higher levels of positive affect than participants assigned to buy the same items for themselves, even… [without] an opportunity to build or strengthen social ties. Our findings suggest that the reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts." 
  • Zunz, Olivier (2011). Philanthropy in America, A History: Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press. ISBN . Archived from the original on October 17, 2011. 
  • Sulek, Marty (2010). "On the Classical Meaning of Philanthrôpía". Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. 39 (3): 385–408.  [Citation originally appeared attached to the Scottish Enlightenment in the "Modern philanthropy" section, but is clearly, rather, associated with material of the "Classical… " section.]
  • Dunn, E.W.; Aknin, L.B. & Norton, M.I. (2008). "Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness." (print, online). Science. Vol. 319 no. 5870, March 21. pp. 1687f. doi:10.1126/science.1150952. PMID 18356530. "Although much research has examined the effect of income on happiness, we suggest that how people spend their money may be at least as important as how much money they earn. Specifically, we hypothesized that spending money on other people may have a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself. Providing converging evidence for this hypothesis, we found that spending more of one's income on others predicted greater happiness both cross-sectionally (in a nationally representative survey study) and longitudinally (in a field study of windfall spending). Finally, participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves. [Erratum in Science. 2009 May 29;324(5931):1143.]" 
  • McCully, George (2008). "Promethean Fire: The Archetype (Chapter I)". Philanthropy Reconsidered: Private Initiatives, Public Good, Quality of Life (A Catalogue for Philanthropy Publication). Bloomington, IN, USA: AuthorHouse (self-published). pp. 1–21. ISBN . Archived from the original on August 26, 2008. Chapter I subtitle: From its first coinage in ancient Greece, in Prometheus Bound, philanthropic meant "the love of humanity," or of what it is to be human, an educational and cultural ideal.  [Citation originally appeared attached to the Scottish Enlightenment in the "Modern philanthropy" section, but is clearly, rather, associated with material of the "Classical… " section. (Appears likely to be the un-cited source for the "Definitions" section and led content and for the "Classical… " section.)]
  • Beatty, Sally (2007). "Money: Families Wrestle With Closing Foundations" (online). The Wall Street Journal (April 17). "Wealthy families are setting up new philanthropic foundations in increasing numbers, but they are also shutting them down at an accelerating pace. / Some of the biggest names in philanthropy are backing the idea of setting a time limit on their giving: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced in December it will spend its entire endowment… within 50 years of the death of the last of its three current trustees, then close its doors." 
  • Martin, Hubert (1961). "The Concept of Philanthropia in Plutarch's Lives". American Journal of Philology. 82: 164–175.  [Citation originally appeared attached to the Scottish Enlightenment in the "Modern philanthropy" section, but is clearly, rather, associated with material of the "Classical… " section.]
  • Lester, Charles Edwards (1883). Lester's History of the United States: Illustrated in Its Five Great Periods: Colonization, Consolidation, Development, Achievement, Advancement. New York: P. F. Collier & Son. 
  • Berman, Edward H. (1983). The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy: The Ideology of Philanthropy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. ISBN . 


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