Persona Philanthropists [late 1985 - present]
While generating and accumulating wealth, persona philanthropists may be simultaneously seizing opportunities to execute their philanthropy. That is, they use their business, reputation, and personal brand to enact a philanthropy that is not always focused on money but on one of the other important facets of giving: time, skills or influence.
Sir Bob Geldof’s work mobilising the public to give to famine relief in Africa was an early example of the persona philanthropist. Jamie Oliver is a more recent example.
Both use their personal brands to promote causes and solve issues about which they are passionate. In Oliver’s case these relate to his own industry: good nutrition, healthy, economical eating, and the joy of food. Oliver has leveraged his personal brand to the point that there is little distinction between his day job and his philanthropy. His campaign to change school lunches in the United Kingdom cannot easily be defined as philanthropy or as business. the boundaries between the two endeavours being fluid.
The persona philanthropist is a wealth generator, who simultaneously blends growing their wealth with philanthropic expression. Philanthropy is integral to their journey of self-actualisation. Depending on their success and need, a charitable foundation may or may not be created. Indeed, money may not even change hands.
Emerging Philanthropists [1990 - present]
This is someone who well before they start a business considers how the business can make a positive contribution to society, and additionally, if for-profit, how part of that business’s revenue and other resources will be directed toward causes that align with the values of the business.
This notion is touched on in the work of Umair Haque who coined the term ‘thick value’ in his book “The New Capital Manifesto” (2009). Haque refers to the value created as authentic, sustainable and not based on someone else’s loss so that you can gain. The ‘thick’ element is the depth and/or height of the value created for society, rather than for personal consumption. The thick value concept, coupled with the general desire of Millennials to do good, has the potential to shape a new paradigm. Where this approach presently exists, the term ‘philanthropist’ is rarely used, as philanthropy is often narrowly defined as the distribution of wealth to charity, even though its broader definition is ‘love of mankind’ or ‘practical benevolence’.
Emerging philanthropists simultaneously generate personal wealth and greater social value and are unlikely to use the term philanthropist. Their money flows to social causes at the outset of their wealth generation, and throughout their lives. After that, more traditional forms of philanthropy may be taken up. Self-actualisation leads to adoption of this type of philanthropy.
The four archetypes of philanthropy exist simultaneously in our social landscape, and we benefit from the diversity. The archetypes are not alternates, they are models. There is much to admire in each one:
- Traditionalists are admirable for their far-reaching vision and giving in perpetuity approach;
- Contemporary philanthropists are admirable for their determination and focus;
- Persona philanthropist must be admired for the passion, the exposed personal vulnerability and visible flaws of a character journey.
- Emerging philanthropists are admirable because they recognise the ecosystem, and our ultimate reliance on one another. They have grasped the notion that every business whether it be for-profit or not-for-profit contributes to society and that it is in the creator’s power and skill set to design a way for the positive impact to powerfully outweigh the negative, and to strive to make this value thick. The notion is a powerful one.
As can be seen from the differences in life stage, motivation, duration and level of wealth of the four archetypes, a single common definition of a philanthropist no longer exists. As the highly visible Persona philanthropists, and the highly altruistic Emerging philanthropists multiply, over time we may need to coin a new term, replacing ‘philanthropist’, which will be inclusive of all archetypes and reflective of what we truly value, and of how diverse and thick our society has grown.
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