The word ‘philanthropy’ comes from the Greek ‘philanthropia’, which means ‘the love of humanity’. In ancient Greek mythology the Titan Prometheus was a constant threat and frustration for Zeus, King of the gods. His downfall came after he stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. (To be fair, Zeus had first stolen it from mankind as revenge for being tricked). This act of betrayal was put down to Prometheus’ love for humanity and desire to see it succeed and flourish. He recognised the importance of fire in human development, creativity, and innovation. 

Modern philanthropy has ancient roots. Chinese, Hindu, and Greek cultures place great importance on acts of benevolenceNative American Indians believe giving helps promote balance and harmony in their lives, and Judeo-Christian religions all preach “doing unto others as you would have done unto you” as a means of helping others.  

The current pandemic has forced a reworking of philanthropic delivery. Speed is of the essenceCorporate and individual benefactors who previously had multi-layered processes quickly dismantled this heavy-handed approach, replacing it with a lighter touch. Individuals and committees found ways to streamline approvals, embracing more efficient, collaborative ways to get support to the point of need.  

Key insights from Wealth-X’s Spotlight on Major Giving in 2020 include: 

  • Major donors are changing the way they engage with philanthropy – trends include an increased awareness of the importance of philanthropy, a greater openness to unrestricted funding and a greater collaboration among donors. 
  • The challenges of 2020 underscore the need for organizations to realize the potential of their major giving programs – amid the financial necessity of funding diversification, there remains huge potential for further growth in major giving. 
  • The ultra-wealthy have given or pledged over $7.4 billion to Covid-19 and social justice causes – the amount the ultra-wealthy and their private foundations gave or pledged to such causes during the period January to October 2020. 
  • Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individuals (UHNW) and social justice philanthropists tend to be younger and more generous in their donations than average major UHNW philanthropists – under 18% of these two groups are over 70, compared with 46% of the latter.  

Our business culture rests on three pillars: Faith, Family and Philanthropy. Despite being small company, we have big plans to continue growing our giving and playing our part in the future. Thinking of others is not a selfless act, it pays dividends. It draws other like-minded people together, creating a critical mass of generosity and improves mental wellbeing for both donor and recipients. Giving feels good. In this seemingly endless season of uncertainty, restraint, and limitation, feeling good is a real bonus. Thank you to those who contacted us in response to our End of Year Report on the causes we supported and pointed us in the direction of other valuable causes and charities. We are looking into how we can add them to our list, so please keep your ideas coming. 

Finally, a personal reflection. Many years ago, I was made redundant, and things were difficult. My wife and I wanted to treat the kids to lunch at our favourite family restaurant. This had been our after-church routine with others previously, but it had been a long time since our last visit. We had been saving, the big day arrived, the kids were delighted. Life was good, we could go to Charlie’s again! While the kids picked their old favourites, Ruth and I were a little more restrained to avoid any embarrassment when the bill came. The kids loved it and watching them lifted our spirits. Then, the moment of truth, “Excuse me, can I have the bill?”, “Nothing to pay sir, the gentleman in the corner picked up your cheque.”  

Whether this was philanthropy or simply an act of kindness, the impact has not been lost on our family. Our benefactor knew nothing of our situation, they simply “wanted to do something nice”. It has created a desire in our family to “do unto others what has been done unto you”. At its heart philanthropy is love, kindness, and care in action. It is not restricted to the rarefied atmosphere of billionaires and corporations. Everyone gets to play.