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Ten Entrenched Myths About Philanthropy

These misconceptions actively inhibit giving.

Over generations of giving, generous people have developed a wide range of “beliefs” about philanthropy. In fact, many of these beliefs are actually myths, based on false assumptions or an inaccurate understanding of how contemporary philanthropy actually works. Ultimately, these myths can inhibit giving by discouraging people from believing that their philanthropic actions can make a meaningful difference in a world filled with challenges.

The term “philanthropy” is a combination of two ancient Greek words: philos meaning love in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing and enhancing; and anthropos meaning human being in the sense of our common humanity.

Using that definition, a philanthropist is any individual who expresses love of humanity through charitable efforts—no matter the size or scope of those efforts. Each of us can be a philanthropist by giving or volunteering or in our daily interactions with others.

Recently, professors at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy published a list of eight myths about philanthropy that call for debunking. Here they are, plus a few of my own:

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