In the US - the most philanthropic of nations - barely a fifth of the money donated by the “big givers” goes to the poor
When we hear the term "philanthropy", we usually assume the rich are redistributing money to the poor.
This general assumption is problematic. Not all of the money end up in the hands of the poor.
If we think philanthropy helps the poor, it begs the question: How is inequality all over the world on the rise despite the increase in the number of philanthropists in the last few decades?
The truth is, most philanthropies are more concerned with the elite causes rather than giving money to the poor and helpless.
According to The Guardian, in the US - the most philanthropic of nations - barely a fifth of the money donated by the "big givers" goes to the poor.
philanthropy actually benefits the rich more
The larger part of the donation goes for the arts, education, healthcare, to the sports teams and other cultural pursuits.
Hence, philanthropy actually benefits the rich more.
The biggest donations in education in 2019 went to the elite schools and universities attended by the rich themselves.
The US are the biggest givers and the UK comes second.
More than two-thirds of the £4.79 billion donations in the 10 years till 2017 went to higher education in the UK. Half of the amount went to two elite universities - Oxford and Cambridge.
Statistics also show that British millionaires gave away £1.04 billion to the arts and sports, and just £222 million for eradicating poverty in the same year. The inequality is clear.
There are nearly 260,000 philanthropy foundations in the world, and three-quarters of them have been established in the past two decades. Between them, they control more than USD1.5 trillion, The Guardian reported.
Philanthropy is, more often than not, an expression of power.
Most of the time, it depends on the personal interests of the super-rich givers. These personal interests can contradict with the priorities of a society or even worse, undermine them.
As the donations increase every single day, questions about the impacts of these mega donations on a society, slowly but surely, arises.
The philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates of "The Gates Foundation" has, on the contrary, brought huge benefits for mankind. The foundation alone donated £5 billion in 2018. It is safe to say that this amount is more than the foreign aid budget of many countries.
With its first grant, the foundation almost doubled the spending on Malaria research single handedly.
Such is the case with polio. With the philanthropy of the Gates and others, global cases of polio have been cut by 99.9 percent - meaning that polio has been virtually eradicated.
This foundation has donated USD 45 billion so far and saved millions of lives.
The feat is surely noteworthy. But was it society-sensitive? Could there be more people or a society where polio eradication was not a matter of concern, rather they needed help for their basic rights?
The growth in philanthropy in the recent decades has failed to curb the growth in social and economic inequality, The Guardian reported.
Kevin Laskowski, a field associate at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, write: We should expect inequality to decrease somewhat as philanthropy increases. It (philanthropy) somehow has not done it yet.
Andrew Carnegie is considered to be one of the greatest industrial philanthropists of his era. His philanthropy mainly neglected the great ethical question on "distribution rather than the redistribution of wealth".
Carnegie used to redistribute his unprecedented fortune, which was largely built on cutting the wages of his steel mill workers.
According to The Guardian, Carnegie built a network of nearly 3,000 libraries and other institutions to help the poor elevate their aspirations but social justice was entirely absent from his agenda.
Like Carnegie, many other philanthropists tried to make charity an act of justice.
Tax relief is something philanthropists are more interested in, which is ultimately served by philanthropy and caters to their own interests.
Most western governments offer generous tax incentives to encourage charitable giving, in other words - philanthropy. This serves the purpose of giving away the unpreceded fortune which ultimately benefits the rich philanthropists themselves.
The Guardian reported that in England and Wales, an income of anything between £50,000 and £150,000 was taxed at 40 percent, and anything above £150,000 was taxed at 45 percent in 2019.
Gifts to registered charities are, however, tax free. So, the philanthropists give away their extra wealth to charities, which ultimately serves their purpose and the poor populace hardly get anything from it.
Philanthropists play a huge role in politics as well.
The fortunes of James Arthur Pope, also known as "Art Pope", was used for the tightening of laws that prevent fraud in elections. Such philanthropic activities sometimes manipulate the democratic process benefiting the philanthropists' own interest.
When billionaires campaign to promote government's accountability and social reforms around the world, or to encourage more young people to speak out about climate change, their motivation is mostly nurtured from their own lived interests or experiences.
Very few philanthropists try to address inequality by finding out the reason behind why a specific society is poor and to help them accordingly.
The charity fundings are actually self-beneficial for the super-rich philanthropists, which eventually leaves out the poor.
There are only a few philanthropic foundations such as Ford, Kellogg's and George Soros - Open Society Foundations that actually work to empower the poor and disadvantaged in some areas.
Some of the new generation big givers are trying to come out of the classic philanthropic ways and give back to the underprivileged populace. But the number is still small.
It is high time mainstream philanthropists understand the reality that extra wealth does not belong to political or commercial ventures, but to civil society. Otherwise, inequality will prevail.