Charity vs Philanthropy: Avoiding Relationships of Dependency


Week in Review

Thank you to Phil Cubeta at Gift Hub, Ian Wilhelm at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Jason Brzoska at My Jewish Learning for picking up my blog in its very first week and getting me off to a strong start.

(Seven hundred hits in 7 days makes me feel like what I am doing is worthwhile.)

Questions for Further Thought

Gift Hub’s comment section led to an interesting discussion on a number of topics that I’d like to discuss further. Namely:

  • What is the difference between charity and philanthropy?
  • How do we prevent relationships of dependency between the giver and the receiver?
  • Would the formal relationships of giving and receiving exist in a just society?

Defining Philanthropy

It is my assertion that philanthropy, from the root “love” and “human,” is about love in its most essential form. It is about identifying problems affecting humanity on the grandest scale, and communities and individuals on the more practical level, and attempting to find solutions.

Charity versus Philanthropy

The difference between charity and philanthropy are in the ways they are carried out. While charity creates an established, dependent relationship between the giver and the receiver, philanthropy seeks to empower and enable sustainability. Charity is a bandaid, while philanthropy is the medicine.

Santa Claus is the ultimate charitable relationship because there is a giver and a receiver and the two can never change (never mind the milk and cookies).

Acts of Giving in a Just Society: The Kibbutz Model

One poster questioned as to whether charity (or philanthropy) would be necessary in a just society. Coming from an Israeli standpoint, this is an interesting question because we can use the kibbutz system as a model.

If we take the communal system of the kibbutz as a utopian model that has equality of roles and responsibilities among all its members, then we can say that charity would not be necessary. Each would give to each other as needed out of a feeling of social responsibility, but as no one would have more than the next. All resources would be equally accessible.

Therefore, we can see that charity would not be necessary because the ultimate social dependency would be to the kibbutz as a whole and not to an outside force that might create inequality. Gaps would be minimal.

Our example of the kibbutz implies that charity or philanthropy is necessary when the social divide is so great that sectors of society cannot provide for themselves. If we as a society enable the government to act for us in bridging societal divides and making sure that everyone has enough, then charity would not be necessary. If the gaps are too great, charitable organizations must step in.


We call on philanthropy to solve the injustice in society and help raise the weaker and disadvantaged sectors through their own means: by education, jobs, training, and other methods. Promoting philanthropy means working to advance a just society and close the gaps between haves and have nots.

We can all act philanthropically by increasing the love we have for each other and ourselves and work to advance our own communities in narrowing social divides.


6 Responses to Charity vs Philanthropy: Avoiding Relationships of Dependency

  1. JOAN LIPSITZ says:

    Log onto and read The State of the South 2007 report, which is devoted to philanthropy and equity. There you will see definitions of “charity” and “philanthropy” that will be of interest to you.

  2. thenewjew says:

    Thanks, Joan. I’ll take a look.


  3. Lara says:

    Re: “If we as a society enable the government to act for us in bridging societal divides and making sure that everyone has enough, then charity would not be necessary.”

    … How do you define ‘having enough’? And how, do you suggest, should a government define it? How should philanthropies define it?

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