Charity and philanthropy are often seen as two sides of the same coin. To individuals and organizations alike, they are often considered to be intertwined. Confusion tends to occur when people use the two terms interchangeably. This isn’t entirely accurate, as the two have many differences as well as similarities.


To put it simply, charity is the emotional impulse to give aid or assistance (frequently in the form of donations or volunteering). It tends to be more short-term, more often than not. Charity is driven by the need to solve a specific and immediate problem, such as rescue efforts, the need to help victims of a particular event, and other similar examples. 

Another way to look at charity would be in the smaller details. When we donate to collection jars – that is charity. It is kind-hearted but still impulsive. There’s no financial planning in the mix, just the need to help.

To put it simply: charity is the act of helping people who need it. Help can come in the form of money, food, items, or services. There is a clear intent and desire to help.


Conversely, philanthropy delves deeper into the problems at hand. It takes a longer-term approach to deal with issues, including advocacy, social issues, and so much more. Naturally, there is a specific expectation for funding that comes with philanthropy. Hence some of the confusion. 

Philanthropists seek to make the world a better place through planning, funding, and research. They will seek out the root cause of a problem and work tirelessly to find a solution. In other words, philanthropists invest in a better future.

For example, philanthropy is when a group of activists step up and fight for equality. It’s when people try to make a difference through the implementation (or removal) of laws, establishing long-term change.

Typically, when people picture philanthropy, they imagine the wealthy. In comparison, charity feels approachable for all classes. While this isn’t entirely accurate, there is a reason for this belief. Long-term change does require a certain amount of money and skill. However, even smaller philanthropic donations can have a huge impact, especially when combined with others who hope to do the same.

The BorgenProject broke down the key differences between charity and philanthropy in straightforward terms. Charity is the act of giving, while philanthropy is all about action and change.