The word philanthropy originates from the Greek philanthropia, which simply – and indeed beautifully -means ‘love of mankind’.
Philanthropic groups and practices have been engrained in our society from the ancient civilizations and the origins of religions. In Greece, philanthropy was a cornerstone of democracy and the sacred texts of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, all call upon believers to care for those in need. Chinese classical thought, also exalted the virtue of benevolence, while Hindu scriptures called giving an imperative duty.
Entering the modern era, philanthropy has partially shifted from the common prosperity of local groups of people and communities, towards the endowment of personal fortunes directed to a wider spectrum of causes, with no geographical boundaries. So merchants in 17th and 18th century Western Europe began founding organizations for worthy causes, and starting in the late 19th century, large personal fortunes led to the creation of private foundations such as the Carnegie Corporation of New York, supporting the arts, education, medical research, social services, environmental programs, and other causes across the world.
Today, philanthropy has evolved further to encompass new ways that enable everyone to become drivers for change. So while successful and well-connected people and businesses establishing their own foundations, and large NGOs continue to be perhaps the best known expressions of philanthropy, the act of giving is becoming increasingly intertwined in the daily lives of each of us.
Charitable activities are in fact bypassing traditional nonprofits and modes of giving, as more and more individuals feel the desire to engage personally and directly in creating social change and are making giving a central piece of their lives.
We are therefore witnessing a fundamental shift in how we give, how we receive and how change is created through philanthropy.
However, while today’s philanthropists may look different from their predecessors in the way they engage with and promote social purpose, the fundamental values haven’t changed and, despites the many evidence to the contrary, ‘love of mankind’ continues to be at the heart of how we aspire to function, both as a society and individuals.
“Our purpose is to make giving easy and accessible to everyone, putting people at the driving seat and break generational boundaries”
Looking at the world today, the challenges ahead of us appear daunting, as we are living in an increasingly fractious and difficult time. The issues that we face such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, global pandemics, the mass movement of peoples, the destruction brought by war, not to mention the constant need to address social inequality and poverty, all seem to be growing, despite the efforts of many to contain them.
As a consequence, philanthropy too is at a pivotal point. There is now perhaps greater awareness than ever before of how philanthropy is essential to push for social and environmental change, and what’s even more crucial, of the collective impact of the choices we all make as individuals – what we do, but also what we fail to do.
But here comes the good part. Increasing awareness, brought about by more accessible and widespread information on both the issues and their potential solutions, is inspiring new ways of thinking and behaving, which strongly resonate with the younger generations.
While from a demographic point of view, Baby Boomers continue to represent the greatest economic force in giving, this is changing rapidly. Gen Z and Millennials are in fact tired of – and many would say even angered about – what they perceive as the protracted negligence of their elders towards the future of their own offspring.
This goes directly to the core of the whole concept of ‘sustainability’ which is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In this sense, the new generations tend to regard traditional philanthropy and giving as self-serving and lacking meaningful long-term vision and impact.
So millennials, along with the Gen Z, are taking matters in their own hands by looking around for new and innovative ideas to make things happen. Increasingly, they are integrating giving into their daily lives, by asking friends and family to sponsor a huge range of initiatives, or paying more for a cup of coffee, a pizza or even their weekly shopping provided they know that a percentage is going towards a good cause.
They go even further than that, as according to research conducted by FIDELITY Charitable, two-thirds of Millennials have supported a socially responsible business, more than four-in-ten have engaged in impact investing and a third have funded microloans.
These data is telling us a story that we simply can’t ignore: younger generations are seriously invested in changing their behaviours to become environmentally friendly and helpful to others. It is our duty to give them the means to achieve just that. In turn, this will prompt older generations to follow the lead and embrace the new age of philanthropy and giving.
“Our unique payment infrastructure works like a digital bridge, connecting people, corporates and charities, anywhere, anytime”
While many giving mechanisms like volunteering, workplace fundraising, and initiatives at local community level have proven their value for decades, they all share one fundamental challenge: they can be time and resource-intensive, and as such put some well-meaning, but less engaged people off. Similarly, donations to well established NGOs and International Organisations still create unnecessary frictions, being with personal data collection or the way payments processing.
All of this results in untapped potential, which in practice means that less money is reaching those who need it the most. However, with the advent of digital technology, which increasingly permeates all economic and financial activities, we are seeing a growing appetite for going online to participate in direct giving. This is helping diversify the sources, channels and ultimate beneficiaries of philanthropy.
While people of all ages are increasingly using online tools, the movement is again being led by the younger generations, who are much more likely to have used mobile devices, social media and other digital tools to engage in giving. Digital platforms that offer simple and straightforward solutions able to streamline giving possess a unique advantage compared to any other traditional channel: they remove frictions and enable atomisation. In other words, this means making payments easier, smaller, more frequent, and closer to when activities take place.
With one single, powerful API connecting people, corporates and charities to the causes of their choice, Fils is creating a new paradigm of giving. We believe that technology can impact the world for good, by making philanthropy instantly available to everyone, anytime, anywhere. We like to call it the democratisation of giving. With a single tap, click, or QR scan, all of us become a driver for change and can contribute to the betterment of humanity.
“With Fils everyone becomes a protagonist in the ever unfolding story of philanthropy”