The Meaning of Philanthropy

By Jamie K. Thu, November 21, 2019

With National Philanthropy Day just a few days ago and Thanksgiving fast approaching, it’s a great time to think about what philanthropy is and what it means to each and every one of us. According to Merriam-Webster, philanthropy is defined as "goodwill to fellow members of the human race." While you might automatically think of wealthy individuals such as Andrew Carnegie or Bill and Melinda Gates when you hear the word, philanthropy is manifested in many different forms (like financial, in-kind, and volunteer support) and comes in all shapes and sizes.

Did you know Philadelphia has its own long-standing and robust history of philanthropy? In the 1700s, Benjamin Franklin motivated fellow Philadelphians to engage in acts of service to better the city. He spearheaded the effort to provide tax exemption in exchange for philanthropic deeds and most likely introduced the idea of a matching grant. And, of course, this was only the beginning. From its colonial beginnings to today, Philadelphia has benefitted from countless philanthropists like Elias Boudinot, James Forten, the Drexel family, and members of the Junior League of Philadelphia.

Today, there are thousands of nonprofits in Philadelphia, each serving the unique needs of community members throughout the region. They all rely on the support of philanthropists. While the City of Philadelphia provides operating funds for the Free Library's facilities and infrastructure, many critical programs rely on private gifts. Throughout our 54 neighborhood libraries, the Free Library offers transformational programming throughout the Philadelphia region—none of it would be possible without the support of generous individuals.

That being said, this time of year is also a perfect time to thank those who mean the most to us. We are so grateful for all our generous donors, volunteers, sponsors, and supporters for all they do for the Free Library of Philadelphia. So…THANK YOU! However you support the Free Library, you mean a lot to us!

Philanthropy takes many forms, shapes, and sizes.
Philanthropy takes many forms, shapes, and sizes.
Benjamin Franklin was an active philanthropist in Philadelphia in the 18th century.
Benjamin Franklin was an active philanthropist in Philadelphia in the 18th century.

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