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Philanthropy means etymologically, the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing what it means to be human. In this meaning, it involves both the benefactor in their identifying and exercising their values, and the beneficiary in their receipt and benefit from the service or goods provided. A conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life," which combines an original humanistic tradition with a social scientific aspect developed in the 20th century. The definition also serves to contrast philanthropy with business endeavors, which are private initiatives for private good, e.g., focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.

Philanthropy (from Greek φιλανθρωπία) means etymologically, the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing what it means to be human. In this meaning, it involves both the benefactor in their identifying and exercising their values, and the beneficiary in their receipt and benefit from the service or goods provided. A conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life," which combines an original humanistic tradition with a social scientific aspect developed in the 20th century. The definition also serves to contrast philanthropy with business endeavors, which are private initiatives for private good, e.g., focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.

Philanthropy has distinguishing features from charity; not all charity is philanthropy, or vice versa, though there is a recognized degree of overlap in practice. A difference commonly cited is that charity aims to relieve the pain of a particular social problem, whereas philanthropy attempts to address the root cause of the problem—the difference between the proverbial gift of a fish to a hungry person, versus teaching them how to fish.