The words “charity” and “philanthropy” often get confused, and while they both involve helping others, they refer to two very different methods for doing so. The difference between them can best be explained by the adage, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” In this blog, we’ll break down the adage and the differences between charity and philanthropy.

Charity is when you give a man a fish. It’s an immediate response to a need, and it can be vitally important, but it’s ultimately a short-term solution. Whenever you give money to a cause you care about, like an animal shelter or a family down on their luck, it’s a charitable contribution. It’s something that you should be proud of, and we should all encourage more people to do, but it’s not philanthropy.

Philanthropy is teaching the man to fish, but it can also be more than that. It’s building something, like a boat or a dock. Philanthropy is often thought of as something rich people do, like building a hospital wing or founding a school. But with a bit of planning, anybody can do it, and it offers more lasting benefits than charity does. It also tends to seek out the causes of a problem to deal with those instead of just the problem itself- it treats the disease, not the symptoms.

For example, let’s look at the problem of addiction. A philanthropic approach would be to find out why people get addicted to drugs through a study and then build a preventative educational program to hopefully lower the number of people that get addicted to drugs in the first place. A charitable approach would be to donate to a rehab center or raise money to send somebody to rehab. You can see how both methods are essential and work together, so philanthropy is not better than charity or vice versa. They go after the same problem, but with two very different- but both very important- solutions.

Now that you know the difference between charity and philanthropy take some time today to consider how you can engage in both to better your community.