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The consistent media barrage surrounding the coronavirus has lead to conversations surrounding charitable and philanthropic donations for organizations and people economically impacted by the federally mandated “stay at home” measures.

Influencers have begun using their platforms to request donations for Feeding America; celebrities hosted an At-Home Concert that raised over $10 million for First Responders Children’s Foundation, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey committed over $1 billion to aid COVID-19 efforts. 

With monetary donation requests popping up across social media and news sites, society’s focus has severely shifted from entertainment to philanthropy.

Instead of looking to their favorite stars for new hit singles or trending music videos, they’re looking to them for financial action.

This can come in the form of either a charitable donation or philanthropic action. But what is the difference between these two monetary endeavors? 

Charity vs. Philanthropy 

The word “charity” is derived from the French word Chrité and means “benevolence and generosity for those in need.”

Usually, charitable donations are requested in the aftermath of a situation that requires relief, such as a natural disaster or disease. Additionally, charitable donations aren’t always monetary. Time and resources can also be considered charitable in many situations.

At its core, charity stems from emotion and immediacy — the moral obligation to help others in need. Usually, those contributing to charity do not receive or expect anything in return. They know that their small offering can go a long way in helping to end a societal problem. 

“Philanthropy” is derived from the Greek and translates to “kindness, humanity and love for mankind.” However, in modern times, the definition has shifted to reflect a more capitalistic society.

According to, philanthropy now is defined as “altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.”

This means that philanthropy is a step removed from charity. While charity can be as simple as a one-and-done transaction; philanthropy endeavors to build ongoing relationships in the name of societal change. 

For example, the At Home Concert would be considered a charitable event since it raised money over a period of time for a specific organization.

Their event was in response to an emotional and immediate need, and those donating to the cause did not expect anything in return.

Jack Dorsey’s $1 billion commitment, on the other hand, would be considered philanthropy. Instead of giving money to a nonprofit organization, he instead transferred a portion of his Square shares into a limited liability company called #StartSmall.

These proceedings will then be utilized across multiple causes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Current organizations he has supported include Masks for the People, Mayor’s Fund LA, America’s Food Fund and Total Community Action.

Billionaires and Philanthropy 

While the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an uptick in billionaire philanthropic donations, it’s by no means the first time the wealthy have used their fortunes to fund causes they support.

In 2018 alone, private philanthropic donations total over $428 billion, with foundation donations accounting for $75 billion of that amount.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is one of the top philanthropic givers, creating the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in order to work towards eradicating polio, developing a universal flu vaccine and addressing cardiovascular disease.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife founded The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which donated millions of dollars to charitable funds mainly focused on curing childhood diseases. 

In most cases, because these men support philanthropic endeavors, their donations are not limited to one cause.

For example, the American Cancer Society would not have much luck asking to fund international female education, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could give sizable donations to benefit both causes.

These foundations give philanthropists a great way to publicly support several causes while raising awareness and instigating change. 

Philanthropy and COVID-19

According to Business Insider, the world’s wealthiest are spending millions to help fund COVID-19 research, rescue and relief. These monetary gifts will help innumerably as the world seeks to find a cure or vaccine for the virus that has overtaken the globe.

However, while the one percent is able to use their foundations to circulate millions of dollars, individual charitable donations still remain as important as ever.

If you want to pledge your support during the coronavirus crisis, there are hundreds of organizations working around the clock to provide direct relief in communities around the world.

Your donation, no matter how small, will be able to help someone who is struggling during this difficult time. And if you’re unsure where to donate, you can send money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who will ensure your donation is used to fund COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing facilities.

In this uncertain time, any kindness will help immensely.