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Philanthropy is what sustains the charitable sector, not money



Mitchell Kutney explores what it means to be a philanthropist.

This piece originally featured in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Philanthropy & Giving 2013

It appears that Philanthrôpía first entered the English language as a term to describe plants whose seeds stick rather too readily to people. Philanthropy was then modernised by Sir Francis Bacon, who is largely credited with preventing the word from being owned by horticulture.

Bacon considered philanthropia to be synonymous with “goodness”, which correlated with the Aristotelian conception of virtue, as consciously instilled habits of good behaviour.

Then in the 1700s, an influential lexical figurehead by the name of Samuel Johnson simply defined philanthropy as, “Love of mankind; good nature.” This definition still survives today and is often cited more gender-neutrally as the love of humanity.

Click here to read The Guide to Philanthropy & Giving 2013

In the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of philanthropy is, “Goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active effort to promote human welfare an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes an organisation distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes.”

As Marty Sulek writes, the precise meaning of philanthropy is still a matter of some contention, its definition being largely dependent on the particular interests of the writer employing the term. Nevertheless, there are some working definitions to which the community associated with the field of ‘philanthropic studies’ most commonly subscribes.

One of the more widely accepted of these is the one employed by Lester Salamon, who defines philanthropy as, “The private giving of time or valuables (money, security, property) for public purposes; and/or one form of income of private non-profit organisations.”

This is the definition that resonates the most with my experiences in the non-profit/charitable sector.

Among famous philanthropists, the people that come to mind are Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, John Wilson McConnell, Michael Bloomberg, John D Rockefeller and George Soros. All of these people have donated enormous sums of money and have certainly earned their title as philanthropists. But what made them philanthropists? And who decided that they were philanthropic enough to be labelled philanthropists? After all, being a philanthropist is a highly esteemed role.

Now this may not come to anyone’s surprise, but there are some commonalities between these famous philanthropists, with the most outstanding being their massive accumulation of wealth. Is it a coincidence that these figurehead philanthropists are also extremely wealthy? Or is it a requirement to be a philanthropist?

This is an important question to ask because in the lexical evolution of the word philanthropy, nowhere does it state only the wealthy can be philanthropic. We can certainly conclude a massive accumulation of wealth is correlated with increased philanthropy, but is wealth a prerequisite of philanthropy?

With our understanding of metrics, it is common practice to normalise values in a base number in order to discern actual impact (the result of outcomes). For example, when calculating the value of a basket of goods, we account for inflation; or when reviewing incident rates, we base it on per capita basis.

What do we ground philanthropy in? It would make sense to calculate charitable giving based on proportional wealth versus absolute wealth, as one would think this would be more philanthropic.

For example, if I made a $100 and gave away $99, that would be more charitable then if I made $1,000 and gave away $500. This however is not the case when it comes to philanthropy.

Furthermore, irrespective of the proportional size of one’s donation relative to one’s wealth, and irrespective of the lexical evolution of philanthropy, it seems that to me, one must give away a wealth of money in order to be considered a philanthropist in modern society.

If my statements are deemed accurate, I would pose a policy question: what if we were to bring philanthropy back to Francis Bacon’s definition of philanthropy as simply “goodness”? Would that not mean so much more? If we deconstructed the underlying emphasis on riches and replaced it with goodness, would a revitalisation of giving perhaps begin to take place?

The charitable sector has not yet returned to pre-recession giving rates and has systematically been cutback from government, foundational and philanthropic support. Organisations such as Imagine Canada are pushing for new tax credit benefits to revitalise the sector and crowdfunding has surfaced as a viable alternative for raising dollars in the non-profit sector.

Moreover, the non-profit sector is increasingly being pressured to participate in revenue-generating activities on a cost recovery basis. Though these are potential solutions to the current stormy climate within the charitable sector, the financial shortfall affecting it is a growing problem that will require a real cultural shift to remedy.

So while this shift is taking place with a focus on changing tax policies, revenue-generating activities and funding alternatives, I would argue the bigger picture is being lost. Philanthropy is what sustains the charitable sector, not money.

The charitable sector is in a period of flux right now and is moving to the furthest extreme of whatever prospective alternative presents itself. I believe in order for the charitable sector to obtain steady change, the conversation should not be about money, but rather it should be about values.

What does it mean to be charitable? What does it mean to be a philanthropist? If being charitable is purely like a business, and if being a philanthropist is just giving away massive amounts of money, it comes as no surprise to me that the sector is in trouble now, despite the negative impact of the economy.

While the financial shortfall is a real problem, another equally important problem dogging the sector is its own values.

Mitchell Kutney’s work focuses on reimagining the roles of philanthropy and social change to create sustainable solutions. He has spearheaded a number of successful non-profit initiatives in Canada and holds a master’s degree from Carleton University in Public Policy. This article originally appeared on his website, where you can find a fully referenced version.

Further reading:

Philanthropists urged to take more risks and ‘talk about failure’

Impact investment and philanthropy: we need to ‘redefine how we all think about returns’

Ben Goldsmith on fixing the environmental crisis through philanthropy

The Guide to Philanthropy & Giving 2013

Mitchell Kutney’s work focuses on reimagining the roles of philanthropy and social change to create sustainable solutions. He has spearheaded a number of successful non-profit initiatives in Canada and holds a master’s degree from Carleton University in Public Policy. Visit his website:


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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