History of Philanthropy

Chief executive officers who find their alma mater foundering financially may begin a fund to pay for operational costs at no expense to the school itself. Movie stars, musicians, and artists who have earned a great profit through community support often give back to help future stars reach their goals. It is important to promote American philanthropy and the history of philanthropy to encourage more funding to reach worthy causes.

The Origin of Philanthropy in Public Discourse

The use of the word "philanthropy" is often traced to Andrew Carnegie's 1889 essay called "The Gospel of Wealth" which sounded the call for responsible savings and donations by the wealthy to charitable causes. The reason why philanthropy's history is truncated is because the notion of giving money to others without equal compensation in work or services was seen as begging. Traditions of mutual aid societies and fraternal organizations helping their members go back to the Roman Empire. While business philanthropy began in America, it has grown extensively throughout the world.

The Growth of Philanthropy in America

Business and personal philanthropy has expanded greatly since Carnegie's article. The 1910's and 1920's saw legislation that allowed tax breaks for business people who supplied money to worthy causes. The First and Second World War saw astronomical investments in war bonds by the wealthy that saw it as an investment in postwar prosperity. The figures bear out the rapid increase in business philanthropy in the interwar period. Donations to charities were at a modest $1.7 billion, but this number grew to $4.1 billion by 1949.

Philanthropy Today

The use of philanthropy in America has grown in terms of financial scale since the 1980's. The Reagan Administration used tax cuts to encourage the use of savings by the wealthy to be put back into the system. Companies have turned a generous tax policy over the last two decades to create charitable ventures. Search engine giant Google has turned its Google™ Earth mapping program into a public service through Google Earth outreach. One of the best-known examples of business philanthropy is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has raised billions of dollars for development issues like clean water and technological infrastructure.

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