1. What is philanthropy?    

Philanthropy is the act of helping a cause that will benefit human welfare and prevent social problems for years to come. 

Literally meaning ‘love of mankind’, the focus is on touching people’s lives in a way that is lasting and meaningful. This could be through things such as long-term donations to charities, or enabling systematic changes that help to solve elements of global issues – such as poverty, or domestic violence.

2. Do you need to be rich to be a philanthropist?

Having access to funds is certainly helpful if you’d like to become a philanthropist. But with a CAF Charity Account, you can still make an impact through smaller, regular donations.

Volunteering is another route to philanthropy. You can donate your time, skills and ideas to the causes you care about.


3. What’s an example of philanthropy?

Philanthropy encapsulates acts that solve and prevent social problems. Take Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford’s school meal campaign from 2020, which called for eligible children to have access to free school meals during the school holidays, as well as a full-scale review of the free school meals system. While monetary donations played a part in this UK-wide campaign, Rashford’s push for lasting change was the main driving force. The UK Government changed its policy over free school meals vouchers during lockdown as a result of the campaign, making it a perfect example of philanthropy.  

4. What is an example of a philanthropist?

Philanthropists come in all ages and personality types – and from a variety of backgrounds. 

From the simple to the large-scale, here are just some of the activities that would qualify someone as a philanthropist:

  • Volunteering or donating your time
  • Setting up a charitable foundation 
  • Donating to a humanitarian appeal 
  • Backing a social enterprise
  • Leaving a legacy in your will 

5. Who are some famous philanthropists?

Martin Lewis

The well-loved founder of Money Saving Expert is a long-standing philanthropy client of ours. He gives strategically through his CAF Charitable Trust – and has made a substantial impact so far.

Andrew Carnegie

After retiring from the steel industry in 1901 as the world’s richest man, Carnegie made giving his money away to good causes a full-time focus. His most notable contribution was perhaps providing towns and cities across America with funds to build over 2000 public libraries. This was a game-changer when it came to access to education.

Bill and Melinda Gates

The Gates are the founders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a non-profit on a mission to create a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.

Dolly Parton

The well-known country singer established the Imagination Library, which helps children develop reading skills and a love of books before starting school. 

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah is believed to have donated more than US$300 million to a variety of organisations throughout her career – and continues to do so.

William Wilberforce

This English politician campaigned for the abolition of slavery – first in Britain, then globally.

Discover the top philanthropists in the UK today >

6. What are the benefits of being a philanthropist?

There are plenty of advantages to being a philanthropist. Here are our top three:

The chance to give back

Being a philanthropist gives you the opportunity to use your resources and networks for good, and improve the lives of those less fortunate than yourself. In this way, you can make a real change in the world.

Stronger networks

Philanthropic activities can help build and strengthen networks – both personal and professional. Philanthropists may connect with several like-minded individuals as they meet contacts at different organisations – and the rapport is built on shared beliefs rather than simply operating in the same sector.

Always learning

Philanthropy is an excellent tool for learning more about the world and broadening the mind – without necessarily intending to do so. It offers the kind of real-life experience that is truly invaluable.

7. How to be an effective philanthropist: philanthropy advice to take away

There are multiple ways to go about becoming a philanthropist – but the following tips will help you get started:

Think strategically

To create real change, you need to get to the heart of the issues you have chosen to support, and develop a strategy based on them. This will help you focus on lasting solutions, rather than temporary fixes.

Research, research, research

If you’ve found a cause you’d like to support, make sure you know it inside-out. Talk to the people it affects, and connect with those who may already be working as philanthropists in the same area. Don’t forget to ask people for feedback on your approach as you go.

Keep it simple

Always remember that you’re there to help people. If there are too many steps and red tape involved before you can reach this end goal, simplify. The best way to do this is to keep an open dialogue between everyone involved – including the beneficiaries. 
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Further resources 

How to become a philanthropist?

Anyone who wants to do good in the world can become a philanthropist.

What is philanthropy and why is it important?

Philanthropy can take many forms. Discover the important role it plays in our society.

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