Philanthropy: A Core Mission of Public Service
“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
Philanthropy is an age-old concept, which comes in many forms to provide support in dealing with the root causes of major global challenges; resource scarcities in small communities; and individual needs among the disabled and disadvantaged. Philanthropy provides a broad perspective for thinking about the meaning of one’s life in reference to personal sacrifice, and good will. The desire to “give back” may be the province of the most fortunate among us, but the desire to give is much more universal. Donors, whether large or small, also recognize the importance of giving more than money. Many are able to give non-financial assets, such as their influence to advance advocacy programs, contacts and networks to expand the reach of fundraising initiatives; and their professional expertise. The field of philanthropy also plays an important role in supporting experimental stages of innovative ideas, which when proven can be utilized and implemented by governments toward addressing public problems. Philanthropists are often at the helm of initiatives involving partnerships between public and private organizations as well as civil society.
Philanthropists have traditionally been the major contributors to the establishment of important public institutions, such as free libraries, hospitals, medical colleges, science laboratories, sports and entertainment centers, and universities. These are recognized as social investments with returns that can reduce human suffering and improve the general well-being of individuals and societies through solving social problems, enriching cultures, and strengthening societies. Philanthropy is fundamental to culture of the United States. The number of benevolent organizations continues to rise. Private businesses are also becoming more caring and socially responsible with organizational policies that promote better working environments and practices that benefit society beyond what they are legally required to do.
The Philanthropy gallery presents examples of noteworthy philanthropists from the mid 19th century on, who have made important contributions to humanity.