The essence of philanthropy is compassion. The word itself, in its ancient Greek semantic roots, means “love of humanity.” For societies that are organized around private enterprise (and the United States is the most prominent example), philanthropy provides a bedrock of care for the needy as well as a pillar of support for such nonprofit organizations as educational and cultural institutions. People who dedicate their time and resources to philanthropy have good reason to believe that they are making crucial contributions to the well-being of their society.
The value of philanthropy is widely recognized throughout the business community. As I noted in Chapter 2, almost four-fifths (79 percent) of the men and women whom we interviewed reported engaging in philanthropic giving to a significant degree. Consistent with the theme of this book, they do not see their charitable activities as a sacrifice but rather as another way to achieve their highest career goals. These business leaders believe in compassion as a desirable end in itself; and they also see it as an effective and moral means toward their more worldly career aspirations. They see giving as beneficial for both the giver and the recipient.
Of course this is age-old wisdom, found in many religious and philosophical traditions, including the Bible. But it is by no means a relic of bygone times: today’s successful business leaders are convinced of philanthropy’s importance to their deepest moral and strategic goals.