What do you think of when you hear the term philanthropy? Indeed, who do you think of?
A high-profile individual perhaps, a person of considerable means, someone in your circle of friends, a business colleague, a family member or even perhaps you yourself!
It is people who are philanthropists, everyday people, many of whom would never see themselves as philanthropists. And yet individual donations are the bedrock for so many causes.

While the CAF UK Giving 2016 Report shows that a significant percentage of individuals give, a question in my mind is the extent to which that giving is considered in terms of intent or desired impact. How much of the donations of money are given in a reactionary manner to the bucket on the street or the send a text now? When people give willingly and unstintingly of their time to a cause, do they even see it in the context of ‘giving back’?

To what extent do individual donors see themselves as philanthropists? In truth, probably not many. This is a frame of thinking that needs to change, we all have the capacity to give. But we should do it strategically, with intent and purpose. We all have the power of one, one person can make a difference, can give with determination, in a planned way.

For major donors, there is a greater onus and dedication of resources to consideration of not just how much to give (time, talent or treasure) but to what cause and for what purpose. Fundamental motivations hold true for both cohorts – major donors being individuals also – but to differing degrees. For example, a belief in the cause is no doubt fundamental to both individual and major donors but the belief in ability to be a catalyst for change can weigh heavier with the major donor.


There are many examples of how major donors give, the process they undertake. Chuck Feeney, through The Atlantic Philanthropies was acutely conscious of the potential difference his donations could make and invested time and resources in researching causes and putting systems in place to measure impact from the outset. He also worked hard at partnering on causes, for example working closely with government on issues thereby going some way to addressing the democratic influence argument.


Chen Shu-chu, an international donor, has commented that it is ‘not just how much money you make that matters but how you use your money’ which again reflects the added responsibility dimension in major giving. She also referenced the happy feeling that she gets from giving, an inner feeling, hard to describe but giving that warm effect. But this is something any one of us can identify with, when we have given something or done something that we believe has made a real positive difference to a fellow man.


J.K. Rowling recently became the first billionaire to fall off the Forbes Billionaire list due largely to her charitable giving. She references a moral responsibility to do more when you have been given far more than you need. She also references the need to do that giving wisely and intelligently, raising the concept of added responsibility in giving.

We can all do our giving with such purpose and intent. But a starting point is to recognise the philanthropist within us and around us. There are few of us who do not give in some way, not just money but time and talent also. Many have a greater capacity to give, that’s undoubted, but we all have capacity to give with purpose. It is already being done by so many, lets recognise and value it. Then we can all stand up as real philanthropists!