Charity and philanthropy, while often used about the same action, denote two different ways to provide aid.
Charity refers more often to our response to an immediate need. We feel empathy during times of hardship for other people. To show this empathy, we set out extra canned goods for food pantries or round up our purchase at the grocery store for various causes and organizations.
Philanthropy should be thought of as a more strategic process that attempts to tackle social problems at their source. Philanthropic acts are frequently attached to the actions of Hollywood’s celebrities in different places in the world.
How Are They Similar?
Using the terms charity and philanthropy interchangeably is not completely incorrect. Both terms describe the actions that people take to help make the world a better place for everyone. Charitable entities and philanthropic entities might tackle the same problem with the same goal in mind. The difference involves how they set about achieving that goal.
The Big Difference
Charity is a term that can be used for actions that offer short-term relief. Charitable acts follow natural disasters, personal loss, and sudden, unfortunate circumstances like illness or job loss. Due to the short-term nature of charitable acts, they are often organized as one time events meant to draw the empathy of many people.
Philanthropy is a term that can be used for more long-term efforts to rebuild. Philanthropy involves considering different aspects of a societal issue and finding the right strategy to correct that issue for the benefit of the people impacted. Philanthropic acts go about achieving goals in a systematic manner.
The example of addiction can help further differentiate both concepts. Philanthropy focuses on all the various factors that contribute to addiction in society to develop long-term programs to address addiction at its source. Charity, however, comes into the picture in the form of detox centers that seek to offer the immediate response for people suffering from addiction who need help as soon as possible.
Charity and philanthropy are different methods that people use to provide others aid. One is not necessarily better than the other, because many situations require both immediate responses and a broad look at the picture.