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Philanthropy- It is generally agreed that the word was coined 2500 years ago in ancient Greece, by the playwright Aeschylus, or whoever else wrote Prometheus Bound (line 11). There the author told as a myth how the primitive creatures that were created to be human, at first had no knowledge, skills, or culture of any kind—so they lived in caves, in the dark, in constant fear for their lives. Zeus, the tyrannical king of the gods, decided to destroy them, but Prometheus, a Titan whose name meant “forethought”, out of his "philanthropos tropos" or “humanity-loving character” gave them two empowering, life-enhancing, gifts: fire, symbolizing all knowledge, skills, technology, arts, and science; and “blind hope” or optimism. The two went together—with fire, humans could be optimistic; with optimism, they could use fire constructively, to improve the human condition.

The new word, philanthropos, combined two words: philos, or “loving” in the sense of benefitting, caring for, nourishing; and anthropos— “humankind”, “humanity”, or “human-ness”. Prometheus did not “love” the proto-humans individually, because at that mythical point in time individuality did not yet exist—that requires culture. What he evidently “loved”, therefore, was their human potential—what they could accomplish and become with “fire” and “blind hope”. The two gifts in effect completed the creation of humankind as a distinctly civilized animal.


'Philanthropia'—loving what it is to be human—was thought to be the key to civilization.

The Greeks adopted the “love of humanity” as an educational ideal, whose goal was excellence (arete)—the fullest development of body, mind and spirit, which is the essence of liberal education. The Platonic Academy's philosophical dictionary defined Philanthropia as: “A state of well-educated habits stemming from love of humanity. A state of being productive of benefit to humans”. Philanthropia was later translated by the Romans into Latin as, simply, humanitas—humane-ness. And because Prometheus’ human-empowering gifts rebelled against Zeus’ tyranny, philanthropia was also associated with freedom and democracy. Both Socrates and the laws of Athens were described as “philanthropic and democratic”—a common expression, the idea being that philanthropic humans are reliably capable of self-government.



Venture philanthropy applies venture capital strategies, skills, and resources to charitable giving. It focuses on leadership, bold ideas, developing strong teams, active board involvement, and long-term investment. Traditional foundations and academics are closely following several organizations that are now applying venture philanthropy practices to build both for-profit and non-profit organizations. In practice, venture philanthropy can differ widely from organization to organization.

Giving Circles are a form of philanthropy consisting of groups of individuals who pool their funds and other resources to donate to their communities and seek to increase their awareness and engagement in the process of giving. Through this process, they seek to impact their own communities or larger areas - including to have global impacts. The circles can serve as a form of shared, or collective, giving in the context of community economic development or other social ventures.


Members of giving circles donate their own money or time to a pooled fund, decide together where to give these away, and often have some sort of social or educational interaction associated with the giving. Many circles, in addition to donating their money, also contribute their time and skills to supporting local causes. Donations may range from spare change to thousands of dollars each year.


Giving circles as they currently manifest themselves are a new trend, but they are built on old traditions dating back hundreds of years to mutual aid societies and other forms of giving for the community. Several years ago, giving circles were predominantly composed of women. Women continue to make up the majority of today's giving circles - but today the make up of circles are more diverse in race, age, and gender.


The structure of the circles can be informal or formal. On the informal side, circles may vote and choose an organization to support and each member writes an individual check. Formal circles may have their money housed at a local community foundation and have staff that support the work of the circle. Giving circles can range in size from a handful of members to several hundred.


Individual donors who join or form a giving circle typically seek to build community within their circle through social events, in addition to the economic impacts of the groups. A growing trend in philanthropy is the development of giving circles, whereby individual donors—often a group of friends—pool their charitable donations and decide together how to use the money to benefit the causes they care about most. The re-emergence of philanthropy in recent years, led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, which involves applying the techniques of business to philanthropy has been termed philanthrocapitalism.

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