Philanthropy? What does it mean?
If you have made lots of money on the stock market, in your business or even on the horses, what should you do with it? Invest it, spend it or give it away. If you give it away then you are a philanthropist. But what exactly does that mean?
The dictionary definition of philanthropy is
“the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”
The Sunday Times devised a ‘Giving List of 2016‘ to showcase the people who give a percentage of their worth to good causes and the list is growing. People are ranked according to the percentage of the money they give away in relation to the amount of money that person is worth or has earned. So in the UK, the number one philanthropist is Lord David Sainsbury (great-grandson to the founder of the supermarket chain). He is worth £220.5 million and has given away 40% of his family wealth. Sir Elton John at number 10 has given away 10% of his wealth. Alisher Umanov (shareholder at Arsenal football club) worth £7580 million has given away £100 million which although is a huge amount is only equivalent to 1.41%.
The Queen ranks at number 166 giving only 0.3% of her wealth away. And Richard Branson was worse at number 173 giving away only 0.28%. There were also comparisons between sporting celebrities. Colin Montgomerie (golf) is worth £35 million and has given away £0.9 million whereas Andy Murray (tennis) who has £57 million has only given away £0.1 million.
Why should people give their money away?
This may seem unfair of me to be criticising people who are after all giving away their money. They earned it, why shouldn’t they keep it all or keep a lot of it. My question is how much do you need? And do you want to make a difference? Do you want to leave behind or start creating a philanthropic footprint? Something that makes a difference to others and will be remembered in history for ever.
As a follower on Twitter of the Gates Foundation (Bill and Melinda Gates) I see them give their money and time to raise awareness of many issues like poverty, education and medicine. The Polio vaccine that they fund through their foundation has saved 18,600 lives a day since 1990. The number of polio cases around the world is now just 36! They have almost eradicated polio. That is an amazing philanthropic footprint that they have created. Yes, they have the money and yes, they can’t spend it all but they are making a difference. They have a lot and obviously that helps. Bill Gates is worth $87 billion but has already given away $27 billion and pledged to give away at least half of all his worth.
Who is the most philanthropic person in the world?
Number one is Warren Buffet. A self-made billionaire who has joined the Giving Pledge. An idea created originally through talks between the Gates, Warren Buffet and other billionaires across the world to encourage the very rich to pledge to give away a considerable sum of their money. It was once thought of as common to talk about how much money one earned or had. Now the rich seem more open to discussing it, especially if it is measured in how you are helping others rather than how many Ferraris and houses you have. It can be no coincidence that the Sunday Times created this ‘Giving List’ on the back of the ‘Rich List’ that they do every year.
Warren Buffet has pledged to donate 99% of his wealth. His pledge says
“More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day. Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.”
I love his honesty. Keeping 1% of his worth still enables him and his family to continue the lifestyle he wants. He goes on to say about how time is a more precious commodity to give up than money and how generous some people are with this. You must read the pledges these billionaires have written. It makes me optimistic for the future where wealth can be shared to benefit all not just the few.
What did philanthropy look like a hundred years ago
If you want to leave a philanthropic footprint behind you, then take inspiration from this list of philanthropists from years ago. This is compiled by the Beacon awards who highlight work in this area.
- Barney Hughes 1808-1878 (Belfast) Bernard Hughes worked as a bakers’ boy for 6 years and in 1870 was recognised as the cities’ leading baker. He was the owner of the largest baking enterprise in Ireland. His production supplied Belfast’s poorer population with much-needed cheap bread, particularly during the harsh years of the Great Famine. He gained the respect of the community as a municipal politician and industrial reformer, donating the ground for St Peter’s Cathedral.
- George Cadbury 1839 – 1922 (Birmingham) George Cadbury, son of the founder of the chocolate factory, was driven by a passion for social reform. He wanted to create clean and sanitary conditions for his workers in contrast to the reality of factories in Victorian Britain. He set new standards for living and working conditions and gave the Bourneville estate to the Bourneville Village Trust in 1901. The trust was founded to develop the local community and its surroundings.
- Sir Montague Maurice Burton 1885 – 1952 (Leeds) A Lithuanian immigrant with just £100 to his name, founded Burton, one of Britain’s largest clothing shop chains. He started a tailoring business with the philanthropic aim of clothing the entire male population in good quality, affordable suits. He enforced an unusually short working day for the time of 8 hours, and became one of the first to instill formal welfare provisions in the workplace, introducing food halls, leisure groups and activities such as theatre, dance and sports teams. The company works closely with Cancer Research UK funding research into bowel cancer. It has supported the Movember Prostate Charity Campaign with the ‘Burton’ moustache, modeled on the moustache of their founder.