What makes a philanthropist?

It can be tricky to pin down precisely what qualifies as philanthropy. Basically, it’s an active desire to promote the welfare of others, often expressed by giving generously to charities or other deserving causes. If we count dropping some of our loose change into a collection box now and then or giving £3 a month by direct debit, most of us could regard ourselves as philanthropists.

So, how important is the scale of giving? To qualify as a true philanthropist, your scale of giving probably does need to be outstanding. At the high end of global philanthropy come billionaires such as Microsoft’s Bill and Melinda Gates, whose charitable foundation aims to enhance healthcare and reduce severe poverty worldwide. On the other hand, if philanthropy is measured in terms of self-sacrifice, a small monthly donation by someone of modest means could also be deemed generous.

Between the two extremes of the spectrum, are acts of philanthropy on many levels. To assist would-be philanthropists, various UK counties have their own community foundations. Individual benefactors and entities, inspired by the work of the great philanthropic families of the past, such as Cadbury, Rowntree and Rathbone, need to plan their benevolence carefully and take advice about its effect upon their wider financial affairs.