Two Kinds of Charity

Charity is tactical; philanthropy is strategic.

Definition – “Charity the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.”

Definition – “Philanthropy the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”


Charity addresses immediate problems. It usually makes no effort to do more than ameliorate symptoms. Minimizing symptoms is not to be disparaged, it has a place.

It is like treating pain. People heal better when pain is less.

In other cases, it supports the cost of operating a structure that delivers help. Like a church or a service club.


While both charity and philanthropy use money to help others, philanthropy addresses it differently. It usually has the goal of overcoming a problem rather than addressing symptoms

Like the Gates Foundation. Define problems. Assign priorities. Assess possible solutions. Marshal resources. Execute. Reassess. Refine. Execute better. I would be amazed if the Gates Foundation used any significant amount of money to treat symptoms where they were not addressing a solvable problem.

The charity risk.

Minimizing symptoms tends to make problems last. Why solve anything if you can cope with the situation? Institutionalizing problems is not helpful.

We mean well when we give, but we must assess the deep value.

Planned giving

In some ways, charity is short term and philanthropy long term.

We cannot be like the Gates family, but we can consider solving problems as an agenda item. Philanthropy need not be millions, it can be a little, properly directed.

Consider Edmund Burke.

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he thought he could only do a little.”

Problems go away best when we work together. Find a strategic charity addressing problems you care about. Maybe a community foundation.

Much of planned giving executes through a will. Consider life insurance as an effective delivery tool for your gift. It can multiply the effect.

In the interim, use charity and philanthropy in tandem to help your fellow Earthlings.

I help business owners, and professionals understand and manage risk and other financial issues. To help them achieve their goals, I use tax efficiencies and design advantages to acquire more efficient income and larger, more liquid estates.

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One Comment on “Two Kinds of Charity

  1. “Minimizing symptoms tends to make problems last. Why solve anything if you can cope with the situation?”Don, you have unwittingly encapsulated the strategy of most government organizations, especially socialized medicine.  This concept explains the proliferation of pharmaceutical panaceas which make up the bulk of drug company R&D, as they seek to eradicate financial distress of their shareholders, rather than eradicating fatal diseases in penniless third world babies.  They have long since recognized that it is more profitable to ease symptoms than to seek cures.We could also draw similar parallels to most other issues of our day.  Homelessness, drug addiction and  psychological disorders, are a few that come to mind.Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

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