The Difference Between Charity and Philanthropy

When people think of making a difference in the world, they commonly picture either charity or philanthropy. Charity and philanthropy are about helping, but the two have differences, although people use them interchangeably. The explanation below sheds light on the difference between charity and philanthropy.


Charity usually is a short-term giving as a natural and emotional reaction to an abrupt situation. Charity can be in the form of volunteering or monetary donations. Charity correlates strongly with donations, charitable giving, and children. It also relates strongly with charity ratings and organizations.

Charity is defined as the act of giving – help, money, items, anything. It’s the humanitarian thought behind the action that earns it this classification, as the ultimate goal is to put some good back into the world.


Philanthropy is about addressing the cause of social issues. It requires a long-term and more strategic approach. A significant number of philanthropists engage in advocacy in addition to volunteering and giving money. People searching for philanthropy relate it to creating, managing, research, knowledge, and organization.

Charity & Philanthropy

Sometimes charity and philanthropy congregate during particular situations like disaster relief. We all feel obliged to assist with the essential necessities when we learn about a tragedy on traditional or social media platforms.

An example is the reactions after tragedies like hurricanes and tsunamis. The number of Google searches for “charity” and correlated keywords were at an all-time high around 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Sri Lanka Tsunami in 2004 was second for charity searches. The number of searches for both cases increased approximately fivefold during peak times.

The approach to helping by one form of intervention shows the difference between charity and philanthropy. Philanthropy goes further than just helping by focusing on the entire disaster relief life cycle. It looks at prevention, preparedness, and recovery. Donors can decide to focus on specific populations like the poor, children, or elderly as a part of their strategy. Others choose to improve systems by working directly with the stakeholders.

There is a place to fit between charity and philanthropy when we get beyond definition to start giving. The charitable will always give even when they can only afford a little. They up their name when they have more and start connecting with philanthropy at this point. There is a place for both whether you think your assistance to be philanthropy or not. We can all choose the place that will help us make the most impact, including the ratio of charity and philanthropy that we plan to engage.