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American oil industry magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937), one of the co-founders of the Rockefeller Foundation

Borrowed from Late Latin philanthrōpia, itself a borrowing from Ancient Greek φιλανθρωπία (philanthrōpía).



philanthropy (countable and uncountable, plural philanthropies)

  1. (chiefly uncountable) Benevolent altruism with the intention of increasing the well-being of humankind.
    • 1681, Bartholomew Ashwood, “Chap. IX. Opening somewhat of the Sweet Dispositions of Christ, viz. His Goodness, Love, and the Riches thereof, as to the Kind, Fruits, and Effects of It.”, in The Best Treasure, or, The Way to be Truly Rich. Being a Discourse on Ephes[ians] 3. 8. Wherein is Opened and Commended to Saints and Sinners the Personal and Purchased Riches of Christ, as the Best Treasure, to be Pursu'd, and Endur'd by All that Would Be Happy here and hereafter, London: Printed for William Marshal, at the Bible in Newgate-Street, at the corner of Ivy Lane, →OCLC, page 139:
      Secondly, Another excellent Diſpoſition in Chriſt, is his Love, not only his Phylanthropy, or good Will he bears to all men, and the Deſire he hath of their Salvation, Ezek[iel] 33. 11.
    • 1817, Ingram Cobbin, “Additional Notes”, in Philanthropy, a Poem: With Miscellaneous Pieces, London: Printed for James Black and Son, Tavistock-Street, Covent-Garden, →OCLC, pages 305–306:
      [T]he spirit of the Gospel has given to many of its enlightened disciples, the impulse of such a philanthropy as carries abroad their wishes and their endeavours to the very outskirts of human population—philanthropy, of which, if you asked the extent or the boundary of its field, we should answer, in the language of inspiration, that 'the field is the world;' a philanthropy which overlooks all the distinctions of cast and of colour, and spreads its ample regards over the whole brotherhood of the species; a philanthropy which attaches itself to man in the general; []
    • 1840 January 26, Thomas B[ayley] Fox, “Christianity the Basis of True Philanthropy.” A Discourse, Delivered at the Fourth Anniversary of the Warren Street Chapel, January 26, 1840, Boston, Mass.: Printed by Tuttle, Dennett & Chisholm, →OCLC, page 8:
      The philanthropy needed, which shall be ever ready to toil, and possessed of an untiring patience equal to perpetual contest with difficulty, is a philanthropy which looks beyond the outward, and is moved by something more durable than mere sensibility or sympathy for physical distress. It is a philanthropy which, underneath rags and filth, shrouded by the darkness of ignorance, oppressed and stifled by the warfare of passion, can catch glimpses of the immortal spirit.
    • 1843, Phinehas Price, “From the Upland Union. Temperance.”, in A Narrative of the Life and Travels, Preaching & Suffering, with an Account of the Witnesses, Defence and Persecution of Phinehas Price, M.D. from 1789 up to 1843, Philadelphia, Pa.: [s.n.], →OCLC, pages 125–126:
      Because an individual should have been an habitual drunkard, however thoroughly and soundly he may have reformed, yet according to this doctrine, he is forever totally debarred the privilege of rising to the level, in a moral view, of that individual who has never been drunk; this is, indeed, holding out a weak incentive for such reformations. This is not the language of true Phylanthropy; this is not the doctrine of Christianity; in the sight of the Saviour, the prostrate, self abased, self condemned publican, was accepted rather than the haughty, self righteous Pharisee []
    • 2008, Robert L. Payton, Michael P. Moody, “Introduction: Why This Book?”, in Understanding Philanthropy: Its Meaning and Mission (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies), Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, →ISBN, page 4:
      Doing philanthropy involves acts as diverse as consoling or cavorting with a child who has cancer, taking tickets at an art exhibit, writing a check for a relief agency, investing in the endowment of a private liberal arts college, and raising the funds that make the endowment possible.
  2. (uncountable) Charitable giving, charity.
    As public funding is reduced, we depend increasingly on private philanthropy.
    • 1913, Robert Barr, chapter 4, in Lord Stranleigh Abroad, London, Toronto: Ward, Lock & Co., →OCLC, →OL:
      I have tried, as I hinted, to enlist the co-operation of other capitalists, but experience has taught me that any appeal is futile that does not impinge directly upon cupidity. If there is the least hint of philanthropy in the project, every man of money fights shy of it.
    • 2014, Olivier Zunz, “The Coming of Mass Philanthropy”, in Philanthropy in America: A History (Politics and Society in Twentieth-century America), Princeton, N.J., Woodstock, Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press, →ISBN, page 44:
      Turning large fortunes into public assets for the good of mankind was a huge project. But what gave philanthropy even more of a central place in modern American life was the simultaneous creation of a people's philanthropy—or mass philanthropy—that engaged the large American middle and working classes in their own welfare. Philanthropy would not be a democratic value if it remained the domain of the wealthy. Only when the rest of the population aligned its old welfare institutions and charitable habits to the systematic search for the common good would philanthropy become a national commitment.
  3. (countable) A philanthropic act.
    His tombstone lists his various philanthropies.
    • 1948, Helen Krebs Smith, editor, With Her Own Wings: Historical Sketches, Reminiscences, and Anecdotes of Oregon's Pioneer Women, Portland, Or.: Beattie and Company, →OCLC, page 216:
      By all accounts Mrs. Morden was a faithful civic worker, unpretentious in her philanthropies which were carried on even after her retirement from Sunday School work. Her brother has a happy memory of the church's presenting her with a gift in appreciation of her long years of service.
    • 1978, Edith Couturier, “Women in a Noble Family: The Mexican Counts of Regla, 1750–1830”, in Asunción Lavrin, editor, Latin American Women: Historical Perspectives (Contributions in Women's Studies; no. 3), Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, →ISBN, page 136:
      Her [María Micaela's] philanthropies included large sums to the Colegio de Propaganda Fide in Pachuca, of which she was the guardian and for which she purchased the relics of Santa Colomba.
    • 2005, Thad Sitton, James H. Conrad, “Making Do, Getting By”, in Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow (Jack and Doris Smothers Series in Texas History, Life, and Culture; no. 15), Austin, Tx.: University of Texas Press, →ISBN, pages 64–65:
      French Taylor and Andy Patterson also performed other philanthropies for their respective communities. They bought school shoes for the children of poor families in the autumn, and they made small cash loans to neighbors that some never repaid. Such men often disguised their philanthropies in requests for assistance with monumental hog killings and syrup makings. Patterson would rise in his Vistula church to announce such occasions and ask for help, though in truth he had all the hands he needed in his own sons and daughters. After the hog slaughtering or syrup making, many neighbors went home with wagonloads of meat and molasses, two of the "three M's" (meat, molasses, and meal) that tided families over the winter.
  4. (countable) A charitable foundation.
    the Rockefeller philanthropies
    • 1988, Merle [Eugene] Curti, “For Welfare and Culture”, in American Philanthropy Abroad (Society and Philanthropy Series), New Brunswick, N.J., Oxford: Transaction Books, →ISBN, pages 184–185:
      [] Walter Vrooman, a well-to-do Kansas liberal, and Charles A. Beard, undertook a philanthropy designed to build solidly on a British base. The scheme they worked out for a labor college at Oxford, Ruskin Hall, met with fairly cordial British response and in time played a role of some importance in the labor movement.
    • 1991, Derek J[onathan] Penslar, “Introduction”, in Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870–1918 (The Modern Jewish Experience), Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, →ISBN, pages 1–2:
      The French Jewish philanthropies were the first to introduce European agricultural technology into the Yishuv on a sizeable scale. French and Algerian methods of horti- and viticulture promoted a network of Jewish plantations based on luxury as well as field crops. Despite their technical successes, the philanthropies intentionally restricted their Palestinian activities; this limitation stemmed from the philanthropies’ goal of individual, not national, regeneration.
    • 2005, Elwood M[orton] Hopkins, “A Tentative Trend: Illustrative Examples of Funder Collaboratives”, in Collaborative Philanthropies: What Groups of Foundations Can Do that Individual Funders Cannot, Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, →ISBN, page 13:
      Some of the initiatives that have been developed with support of the NRFC [National Rural Funders Collaborative] include providing new sources of capital for promoting sustainable agriculture and forestry, new financial products for low-income residents of rural areas, cooperative models for rural economic development, and new small-scale local philanthropies in Appalachia, Georgia, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, Louisiana, and numerous Native American reserves.

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