Philanthropy: Individual Steps Towards A Better Society

Posted on April 3, 2011 in Society


By Himanshu Chauhan:

Inequality is a bitter truth of our world. As a result of various social, political or resource and opportunity based reasons while a considerable section of the human population has become prosperous, progress of the masses at large has remained stagnant of negative. Distress, hunger and exploitation have been ailing the poor and vulnerable. Not only are their differences between nations but there is immense gap in the development process of individuals within the sanctity of a country and on other – smaller basis as well. Perfect equality can never be achieved but in present times a large chunk of global wealth is acquired by just a few people while acute poverty affects more than 35% of global population that survives at less than $1 a day.

Statistics show that the world’s 40% population has accumulated just 5% of global wealth while the richest 20% holds a staggering 75% of the share. According to the World Bank Development Indicator of 2005, the richest 10% accounted for 59% of global GDP (Gross Domestic Production) while the poorest 10% consume just a horrific meager of 1.5%. There are endless statistic figure that prove the huge gap between rich and the poor is very large and is increasing.

Apart from the role played by various international organizations to curb the problem, many have taken personal initiative to work towards the betterment of the world. Many high net generous individuals have given considerable chunks of their wealth for noble and charity causes from time to time. People like Mother Teresa and many like her have dedicated their whole existence to work for the needy. As technology has given global menaces like poverty a common international platform and has helped in generating awareness, people have slowly started to realize that as all countries and people are interconnected, instability in one section or society will ultimately affect the whole world in some adverse way with time.

This kind of understanding and reasoning has led many innovative and wealthy individuals and organizations to come together in the conquest against poverty and other causes that cripple humankind. Creative and successful individuals are not just giving away wealth towards the upliftment of the society but have become the ambassadors of change by giving the campaign a more professional and sustainable approach. This new hybrid breed of generous leaders is popularly called philanthropists.

The philosophy of Philanthropy means the ‘love towards humankind’ and aims at promoting this thought as the basis of all education from the aspect that on being human himself. In modern day it can be seen as an advanced and evolved form of charity where the able does not just part with wealth but there is a whole machinery of donors, supporting network and charitable organizations that confirm that the whole process leads to achievement of definite goals and resources are harnessed in a direction of sustainable positive change. Personalities like Warren Buffet (leadsman of Berkshire Hathaway)and Bill and Melinda Gates (founders of Microsoft), Pierre Omidyar (Founder of eBay) and a few others have gone the lengths to announce that they will give away nearly entire personal wealth for causes leaving just enough for a good living for their children. Azim Premji (Wipro head) has decided to invest 1 billion in education.

Bill and Melinda Gates recently visited India parallel to the timing of the visit of their most valued donor Warren Buffet who announced to give 99.9% of personal wealth for causes. Mr. Buffet pledged to give the Bill and Melinda Foundation approximately 10 million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares spread over multiple years through annual contributions, worth approximately US$30 billion in 2006. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works in the field of providing medical and nutritional aid in one of the most under privileged sections of the society.

It has joined hands with Bihar government to provide medical facilities to children and is sponsoring AIDS research of NACO. Melinda Gates in an interview said that the wealth accumulated by the rich comes from the society and as the wealthy are in a better and powerful position to give than it becomes their responsibility to work in those directions that are tough to walk upon.

In the Indian context unlike the rich western nations, philanthropy is not a very famous trend. In India where 40% of the population lives under acute poverty, top 5% high net individuals hold 40% off all wealth; only 10% of the total donations are given by private hands and corporate. The other 90% comes as international aid and from government. US gives up 2.2% (300 billion) of its total GDP as charity where 3/4 of the total philanthropy is done by private individuals. UK and Canada part with 1.3% and 1.2% of theirs respectively while in India it’s just a minute 0.6% but the figure is still a relief if compared with China where only 0.1% of the total GDP is given for causes. Also on an average basis it takes about 50 or more years for this trend to strengthen its root in an economically developing nation.

Philanthropic organizations have an edge over other forms of welfare institutions because they are well-funded, can target definite root causes that clasp the prosperity of humankind. Governmental organizations may too be working well but the leadership factor and professional approach is lacking. Also the individual drive that is there in philanthropic organizations helps in better understanding and working.

Let’s just hope that this trend thrives and so does our civilization, building a world of responsibility and care.