Philanthropy, Fundraising and Human Service Sector

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 4
Words: 1107
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Master


Philanthropy as a form of community interaction and support has existed for a long time, at least since antiquity. Researchers argue that philanthropy first appeared as a purposeful social activity in Ancient Greece (Reich et al., 2016). The images of many mythological characters such as Prometheus and Hercules indicate that philanthropy was well known and widespread in the ancient Greek states (Aftyka, 2019). Aftyka (2019) notes that “Greek philanthropy was a consequence of the social nature of man and stemmed from community life” (p. 150). The Romans later adopted this community practice; it spread widely throughout Europe, especially after the emergence of Christianity.

Nowadays, modern societies have a specific branch of entities engaged in philanthropy and fundraising; these are human service organizations. In order for each of these activities to make their positive impact and for an organization to achieve its intended goals, its nonprofit manager must know the basics and nuances of philanthropy and fundraising. Simply put, many things depend on the professional competence of a nonprofit manager in such organizations.

Studying the differences between the two is a good skill development practice. It provides a broad perspective on many of the processes in human service organizations and related challenges. Interestingly, the topic of fundraising and philanthropy has become very popular over the past decade, especially among professionals. According to Hodgson and Knight (2016), “now, community philanthropy is turning into an oak with ambitions, to borrow a phrase from the civil rights movement, to ‘stand tall’” (p. 35). In this paper, the differences between philanthropy and fundraising in the setting of a human service organization will be critically analyzed, and the related challenges will be explored in detail.

Philanthropy and Fundraising, Differences

The first significant difference lies in the general approach to each of the two activities. In fundraising, a human service organization uses monetary resources to implement charitable programs that they receive from sponsors after the planning stage is done. Nonprofit managers are looking for donors, establishing partnerships with them, and building a reliable and vast network united by one altruistic goal. Philanthropic activity implies that an entity uses its own resources or the money of its associates within the association to carry out a charitable cause. It mainly includes funds from companies as well as government support (Worth, 2016). However, in recent years, the proportion of donor money from individuals has increased significantly.

The second significant difference is closely related to the first one. It is about how nonprofit organizations analyze the environment in which they are going to conduct charitable missions. When fundraising, an entity primarily sets and evaluates its own priorities during the planning stage (Worth, 2016). Conversely, organizations first analyze the existing global problems and negative trends within institutions when they want to implement a philanthropic program (Knickman, 2007). Sources of funding for charitable acts and missions described above are what causes distinction.

The next difference to be analyzed here is the size of addressed issues. Organizations do fundraising to address specific local problems, such as the devastating effects of natural disasters. Simply put, fundraising is most effective when financial resources are needed as soon as possible. Nonprofit organizations resort to a philanthropic approach when there is a permanent, long-lasting negative social or institutional trend (Worth, 2016). It is noteworthy that sometimes fundraising is one of the levels of strategic philanthropy (Worth, 2016). Philanthropy is a broad policy that can last for years or even decades, whereas fundraising is about half a year at best.

It is no secret that philanthropy, like any other human activity of an altruistic nature, has its own problems that managers have to face and solve. It is obvious that not all people are ready to donate their financial resources for an unprofitable and long-lasting purpose, even if it is charitable. It is also necessary to mention that nonprofit organizations and their donors have different perspectives on things (Porter, 2007).

Attracting business actors and individuals willing to donate can be daunting, even for an experienced nonprofit manager. When the network of regular donors is developed, another problem appears, namely the retention of the network members. As noted above, philanthropic programs take a long time to make the first impact. Some may decide that it is not beneficial to donate any longer or that philanthropy makes zero positive changes.

Human service professionals have developed effective tactics to address these issues. One of these is grant writing, which can help nonprofit managers and others seeking monetary resources convince potential donors to donate funds for a philanthropic goal. Its strength is that it considers the perspectives and interests of both parties (Porter, 2007). If one is having trouble finding sponsors, they should learn to write proposals in a grant writing style.

Challenge with Public Image

Another problem with promoting philanthropy lies in the public image of nonprofit organizations. Stannard-Stockton (2008) states that many donors believe these are “nothing more than a bureaucratic entity whose cost of existing should be minimized as much as possible” (para. 2). It is worthy of mentioning that such an opinion is especially prevalent among individual donors (Stannard-Stockton, 2008).

Stannard-Stockton (2008) also notes that “at the root of this mentality is the idea that doing good is best executed by those willing to sacrifice” (para. 2). Such a social mindset complicates the promotion and popularization of philanthropy, spreads false rumors about nonprofit organizations, and harms their employees. As a result, it interferes with making positive and impactful changes in society and institutions.

Nonprofit management experts have developed several effective measures to fight this societal bias. Some of them are information transparency, relationship building with public relations, and expenditure minimization. Stannard-Stockton (2008) argues that the former and the latter are the most effective measures that every entity should adopt. Human service organizations and nonprofit managers must combat public prejudice about themselves in order to increase their positive societal impact.


This analytical work examines such human activities as fundraising and philanthropy in the field of human service. Moreover, it also describes the relevant issues associated with them that nonprofit managers have to deal with; the most efficient solutions are also provided here. As history shows, philanthropy is one of those things that keeps society functioning. Fundraising and philanthropy are two things that bring together different groups of people within a community and make them support each other. Workers and managers of human service organizations do an outstanding job collecting, allocating, and directing the necessary resources to those most in need. To be one of them means to have a kind heart and tremendous physical and spiritual endurance.


Aftyka, L. (2019). Philanthropy in ancient times: Social and educational aspects. Journal of Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University, 6(1), 149-154. Web.

Hodgson, J., & Knight, B. (2016). The rise of community philanthropy. Alliance Magazine, 21(4), 31-35. Web.

Knickman, J. R. (2007). Understanding the craft of philanthropy: Do we make something that should be simple too complex? Health Affairs, 26(6), 1776-1778. Web.

Porter, R. (2007). Why academics have a hard time writing good grant proposals. Journal of Research Administration, 38(2), 37-43. Web.

Reich, R., Cordelli, C., & Bernholz, L. (2016). Philanthropy in democratic societies: History, institutions, values. University of Chicago Press.

Stannard-Stockton, S. (2008). Sacrifice notion sabotages our nonprofits. Financial Times. Web.

Worth, M. J. (2021). Nonprofit Management: Principles and practices (6th ed.). SAGE Publications.