Philanthropy is a word of Greek origin that perhaps sounds like a field of medicine. It is actually a form of altruism, in which a private concern, an individual, or a corporation creates private initiatives for the public good. Philanthropists differ from charitable organizations in that rather than just donating to a cause, they seek to get to the heart of the problem and help to create and execute solutions. There are philanthropists in every nation. The United States has a history of philanthropy that dates back to its earliest days.
The tradition of philanthropy that led to modern individuals such as Kent Thiry, an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader started during colonial days. Benjamin Franklin was the impetus behind the creation of many institutions for the betterment of his home city of Philadelphia. These include the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, and the Philadelphia Academy, which eventually became the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin’s work was just the start of a long history of American Philanthropy.
Andrew Carnegie made a fortune in the steel industry and sold his corporation in the late 19th Century to focus on creating philanthropic organizations. One of his greatest contributions was contributing to building public libraries in 47 U.S. states and other nations throughout the world. He also formed the Carnegie Corporation which exists to this day and supports educational programs all over the globe. Perhaps his most famous philanthropic work was the building of New York’s Carnegie Hall a prestigious music venue that hosts performances by world-class musicians in every genre.
John D. Rockefeller
Standard Oil co-founder, John D. Rockefeller used large amounts of his fortune to support numerous philanthropic causes. In the early 20th Century, his famous Rockefeller Foundation was formed. Headquartered in New York, the foundation continues its work today and has given more than $14 billion dollars to various causes throughout its history. The Rockefeller Foundation has five main areas of focus:
- Social Sciences
- Arts and Humanities
- Agricultural and Natural Sciences
- Medical, Health, and Population Sciences
- International Relations
One of the Foundation’s most famous accomplishments is the creation of the beautiful Lincoln Center complex in New York.
The Ford Foundation
Created in 1936 by Henry Ford and his son Edsel, the Ford Foundation also has five areas of action as part of its mission.
- Freedom and Democracy
- Economic Improvements
- World Peace
- Human Behaviour
Since its inception, one of the foundation’s main areas of work has been eliminating poverty and providing educational opportunities for minority groups. These include Black, Latinx, and Asian Americans. The Ford Foundation has also contributed to the education and other causes of Native Americans. Many of its scholarship program recipients have gone on to make significant contributions of their own to the nation and the world.
Philanthropy is a concept that has been around for centuries. Many American entrepreneurs and corporations have and continue to contribute to philanthropic endeavors that seek to improve the quality of life for many peoples all over the world.