According to the Greek Playwright, Aeschylus who coined the term philanthropy in the 5th century, Philanthropy simply means “love of humanity”. Today, we would go further to define philanthropy as the love of humanity that drives us to act; by giving monetary gifts, our time, skills, or voices to causes we care about. Philanthropy therefore is an action word, it is generosity in all its forms and shapes.
Can we all be philanthropists then? Yes, we can. We all have the capacity to love and give towards humanity. Whatever we do that is aimed at making life better for other people is philanthropy, regardless of how few or how many resources we put into it.
Do we need to be ultra-rich to make a positive impact? More often than not, we refer to individuals or families of considerable wealth who are using their resources for good causes as philanthropists. While it is true that a billionaire can have more impact than an average income earner, commitment and consistency are essential in making a positive impact, irrespective of the level of income. It is important to note that when it comes to philanthropy, what truly matters is the potential for billions of combined donations from millions of small givers.
According to the Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index, if Africa’s middle class joined the rest of the world’s middle class to give 0.5% of their spending, the continent and the rest of the world would have $319 billion in resources for civil society organizations annually by 2030.
Do we hold on until we are older or retired to start giving back? Definitely not! Giving while we are younger and during lower earning years establishes the powerful habit of giving. It positions us to give more as our income increases. We can commit now to give a fixed percentage of our income regardless of how much we earn, volunteer a couple hours a week at a local school, mentor a young professional, coordinate a book drive or advocate for a course in our communities. Whatever we decide to do, there is no better time than now to work towards the Africa that we dream about.
We all have a role to play; some philanthropists are known for giving substantial sums to aid societies, others are known for selfless good works towards their communities and some others are not known. The magic is in the numbers and if we all get involved at every level, half the issues on the continent will be mitigated.
We can all be philanthropists, get involved!