Acton Institute Powerblog

Charity vs. Philanthropy

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Philanthropy, for all its good intentions, does not necessarily imply a personal connection with the needy person. It can and often does, but it doesn’t have to. Philanthropy is the more institutional, “big-picture” cousin of charity, which is the personal and direct connection to those in need. Andrew Carnegie building hundreds of libraries with the wealth he made in the steel industry, and being celebrated for it to this day, is philanthropy. Your Aunt Evelyn volunteering at the local church-operated hospice and sending the facility an annual donation of $150, in perfect anonymity, is charity.

Karen Woods examines Warren Buffett’s gift to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and discusses the importance of his philanthropy while at the same time emphasizing the need for support of smaller, local charities that interact directly with those they help, creating accountable and personal relationships that effect change in people.

Read the complete commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • Jude Chua Soo Meng

    American generosity is a real example and model for us. The Holy Father’s Deus Caritas Est says something similar: humans do not need mere technical assistance but also human affection and love.

  • adumah ekene

    i’m of the opinion that this idea of philanthropy should or must be extended to africa and in combination with and by our african rich men and women not just the westerners, in africa …nigeria for instance we have a huge number of rich men that are after their personal pocket and family enclave’ who are no other people than our so called pollitical office holder. they instilled in them selves this attitude of misappropriating and stealing public fund into their personal purse in the name of good leaders. so i pray and hope they ill change and emulate the life of philanthropy. maybe things ill change for good in africa and the whole world. cos africa has a a roll to pray in world economy
    finally i want to thank ‘karen woods ‘ for her wonderful commentary. may god guide her and we all in future bye.

  • EvilCapitalist

    This is a perfect example of how to critique someone (and/or something) WITHOUT being condescending towards him/her/it. I guess I’m so used to the tones of the main stream media that I’m still pleasantly surprised when I read something like this that makes the point in a kind and gentle and logical matter (i.e. no name calling and appealing to emotion).

  • Zulekha Ilmi

    I have read the artical and it is really motivating, It has made me think of helping my community. All the comments made is the truth help is needed mostly in Africa. Where people cannot afford basic. I am a Bristish citizen who wants to help somalia and am trying to get a philanthropist to assist me helping the somali community, by building a hospital, aid awareness because it is the killer decease at the momement and the community is in denial.

    Please advise

    My address is

    18 Unity Terrace
    Scott Crescent
    HA2 0HH.