Philanthropy can be difficult to define. The word is derived from the Greek words ‘philos’ which means loving and ‘anthropos’ which means humankind – so can directly be defined as love of humankind. We usually refer to philanthropy in relation to giving something in order to help others. We often think about this in terms of money, but the giving can also include time, skills and other resources. One short but simple definition that we often use at the UK Philanthropy Archive is one by Robert Payton which says philanthropy is “private giving for public good.”
Philanthropy exists to make the world a better place to live. It is different to charity in that it doesn’t just seek to alleviate suffering, but aims to get to the root of the problem and use wealth to effect change and remove existing problems in society.
A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist. Philanthropists are often seen as innovative and entrepreneurial, with a willingness to take risks and look at long term solutions to problems.
Attitudes to philanthropy are sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Philanthropy has sometimes been seen as controversial and in recent years has attracted criticism in relation to the powerful position philanthropists hold, and questions over the origins of wealth creation and the ethics of giving this money away. What drives philanthropists to give and what role that philanthropy plays in society are some of the key questions that records and archives can help to answer.
We are working with the Centre of Philanthropy at the University of Kent to preserve archives on philanthropy in order to enable the better understanding of a whole range of topics. This includes giving motivation, how philanthropy impacts the world around us, what role philanthropy takes alongside government and business, and how it touches on wider subjects of economics, capitalism, social history and democracy. It would be difficult to fully understand how philanthropic individuals and organisations have influenced UK society without the evidence provided by their archives.
Our collections include:
The UKPA is a fantastic source for academic and personal research (or just for fun). The collections can be used to:
If you are a philanthropist, trust or foundation that has archives/records about your organisation and you would like to talk to us about donating them to our collection, then please do contact us at email@example.com. We would also like to hear from philanthropic networks, and others who work in the philanthropic sector who have material that they think may be of interest to our collection.