Words That Describe Great Philanthropy

On Wednesday, I asked readers to submit words that they thought best described great philanthropy. You will find all the details here. On Monday, we’ll be randomly selecting a reader who submitted a word and give them a $50 gift certificate to Vittana.org (microfinance for student loans in developing countries).

Here’s a couple of entries so far:

By Rich Polt


Passion is the lifeblood of good philanthropy because it sustains ones giving over the course of a lifetime.

Effective philanthropy, like anything in life, requires experimentation and long term commitment. Some things work. Some don’t. But without passion as an underlying motivator, no one will have the gumption, stamina, and drive to weather failure and truly make a difference.

By Emily Rushing


Being connected with others for maximum impact makes good philanthropy great.

Personal giving is satisfying in a special way, but truly great things happen when the knowledge, enthusiasm, ideas and energy of many individuals come together in service of the greater good. The impact is greater on the chosen cause and on the donors, as they feel connected to their purpose and to each other.

By Charles Maclean


Juicy philanthropy fires neurons and heartbeats for the giver and receiver.

Brain scans and neuro-chemical analysis indicate that “the givers high” has a scientific basis. Juicy philanthropy produces an upward spiral where the giver and receiver engage in “pay it forward” infectious acts of kindness. The distinction between the giver and receiver is erased. There just might be a caring gene or at least a pre-disposition to care and give. It is through giving and receiving that we discover who we are . . . and what matters to us.

The deadline for entries is midnight (pacific time) this Sunday. I hope you’ll share your idea for the word that best describes great philanthropy. Full details on submitting an entry can be found here.


  1. Ken Berger says:

    Impact =

    Innovative programs
    Measurement of outcomes
    Performance management
    Accountability and transparency
    Capable leadership
    Theory of change

  2. Eric Foley says:


    As in, you know, virtuous. As in, “versus evil”. Light shining in the darkness and the darkness comprehending it not and such.

    Just as non-profit nation is marching under the battle cry of good to great (and passionate and juicy and impactful and measurable), for-profit nation has vaulted over us heading in the opposite direction, from great to good.

    Morally good, that is.

    “Good is better than great,” contends Umair Haque in his recent Harvard Business Review article, The Great to Good Manifesto (http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2010/02/great_to_good.html) . “Many are great,” he continues. “But very, very few are good.”


    While the GiveWell blog last week was publishing a great-is-better-than-good post entitled “Haiti earthquake relief seems less cost-effective than everyday international aid”, Pepsi–through its Refresh initiative–is getting in touch with its Inner Yoda. Writes Haque:

    “We often equate ‘doing good’ with, a la Google, passively being ‘not evil.’ Yet, they’re not the same. Yoda knew that good is more than just the absence of evil. And he was no mere wise elder — he was also one of the most deadly of the Jedi Masters. So the Yoda Concept says: going from great to good happens when a company goes on the offensive against rivals who are merely great and who are failing to do good. It isn’t enough to simply ‘do no evil.’ Pepsi’s Refresh is interesting in this light because it’s Pepsi going on the offensive against Coke in terms of making each dollar do more good, and less bad.”

    Still, Haque’s praise for Pepsi’s great to good approach is tempered:

    “Pepsi’s great failing with Refresh is this: merely investing marketing dollars in worthwhile causes can never make up for something as economically meaningless as merely selling sugar-water. A culture of meaning means that Pepsi needs to refresh the idea of Pepsi — not just how it’s marketed.”

    Sean, the beauty of your question about words that describe great philanthropy is that it forces us to declare what we view to be the ultimate end of our work–what it looks like, in other words, when we win. For the purveyors of sugar-water, they purport that more is at stake than measurement of outcomes and management of performance. It may all be little more than marketing goofer dust for Pepsi, but it is fascinating to see who is talking the most these days about, as Haque puts us, “making each dollar do more good, and less bad.”

  3. Essen Tial says:

    A passion for compassion