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Although charity and philanthropy are often thought to be synonymous, they are distinct from each other. However, they both seek to address the needs of disadvantaged people and make the world a better place. The following sections explain the difference between charity and philanthropy.


Charity refers to giving that directly addresses basic and urgent needs, such as providing emergency food to victims of a Tornado. The term is also used when nonprofit organizations request donations, such as annual fundraisers. Charitable donations are one-time offerings from willing supporters motivated to provide.

In relation, charity is used to describe a nonprofit organization of any size. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) classifications for charities are 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4). These classifications are for donations and organizations that offer short-term, essential resources for the public good.


Philanthropy is used to describe private contributions for the public good. In most cases, philanthropic initiates are underlined by vision and value for a particular objective. As such, philanthropy is long-term and requires proper planning to build a comprehensive philanthropic grantmaking group.

Philanthropic funds are often used to fund 501(c)(3) organizations, support political advocacy, and promote 510(c)(4) organizations that impact different policies at the systemic level.

Good philanthropy leverages strategy, scale, and systems to maximize impact. Philanthropic strategy is developed by identifying mission, vision, and core goals. This is followed by research and analysis to deal with issues, gaps, and needs aligning with the developed strategy. These two undertakings create a grantmaking portfolio, which is necessary for providing recommendations to enhance outcomes and promote change.

Although philanthropic grants are used to create a desired and long-term impact to address needs in society, their size varies. A grant can fund a specific program or help manage an entire nonprofit organization by providing operating support.

Philanthropy uses structure to eliminate any short-term issues. A good system is essential in dealing with community needs and developing solutions to promote change. Philanthropy groups can also partner to create new initiatives.

Charity and philanthropy are different from each other. Although both are designed to address needs, charity is short-term while philanthropy is long-term. Charity doesn’t need extensive planning, but philanthropy needs to be strategic and well-researched.