The Differences Between Philanthropy and Charity

Douglas Gerard Kleinsmith

January 12, 2023

Philanthropy Vs. Charity – What Are the Differences? Philanthropy and charity are very similar. However, there are a few crucial differences. Before you donate to a charity, it’s helpful to understand what makes them different. There are Private and International foundations, as well as Trusts and Public charities. Ultimately, deciding which charity is best for you will depend on your goals, Philanthropy Vs. Charity – What Are the Differences? finances, and preferences.

Public charities

Public charities and philanthropy can be excellent ways to help the community. Many nonprofits accept tax-deductible contributions. Depending on your particular situation, these tax breaks may create pitfalls. 

To donate to a charity, you must understand the different types of organizations. There are two primary types of nonprofits: public charities and private foundations. Each type of organization has different rules and regulations.

Public charities receive money from the general public and then spend the money on charitable programs. These organizations are subject to greater scrutiny than private foundations. They must pass various tests to qualify for their tax-exempt status. The tests are outlined in Schedule A, a supplement to the 990.

Private foundations are tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. Some of the most notable private foundations distribute gifts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the IRS has strict rules for these institutions. Philanthropy Vs. Charity – What Are the Differences?

Most private foundations require an upfront income commitment. The funds come from several sources, including donors, corporations, and family members. In addition, a private foundation may not count grants toward its minimum payout requirement.

Private foundations

There are many types of private foundations and philanthropy. They are nonprofit organizations that are independent legal entities controlled by donors. They typically make grants to other charities. The donors of a private foundation receive tax deductions for their contributions.

A corporation, an individual, or a family can fund private foundations. A board of trustees manages most private foundations. A committee of directors is responsible for receiving donations, making discretionary grants, and deciding how to spend charitable funds.

Typical activities of private foundations include grants to other charitable organizations, program-related investments, loans, and contributions to educational institutions. Some private foundations also invest in for-profit businesses. These assets are excluded from the donor’s estate and may provide significant tax benefits.

Private foundations are also subject to excise taxes if they fail to adhere to specific operating guidelines. These restrictions are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For example, a private foundation that is not actively engaged in its mission or conducts exempt programs must pay out 5% of its investment income annually.


Donating to a charitable trust can be a powerful way to benefit your chosen cause, and it can also be a wise financial decision. You can get tax benefits and a reliable income stream depending on the type of charitable trust you prefer. A charitable remainder trust (CRT) is one such option. 

A CRT is an irrevocable transfer of money or assets from an individual to a charity. The amount that can be deducted for tax purposes depends on the type of CRT, the number of years it will last, and the number of payments you plan on making. 

Another option for philanthropy-minded individuals is to donate to a donor-advised fund. This is a less expensive alternative to a charitable trust and offers many of the same benefits.

Another way to make a meaningful contribution is to establish a dynasty’s trust. These trusts help ensure that wealth continues to pass down to future generations.

International foundations

International philanthropy and charity are growing focus areas for private foundations and public charities. These organizations provide essential support to help the world’s most vulnerable people. They can also alleviate the worst effects of humanitarian crises.

Philanthropic organizations have the power to change the political agenda of the world. But their role in international relations has been questioned by some scholars. Others have said that they have less influence than governments.

Some philanthropic organizations have long had a presence abroad. For example, a British foundation serves as a global umbrella for non-governmental organizations in 51 Commonwealth countries. It focuses on supporting nonprofits in health, education, rural development, and women’s empowerment.

Another form of international philanthropy is the World Bank. The Bank’s global grantmaking network is composed of more than 40 organizations. Those organizations work to improve the philanthropic sector in Asia and Africa.

Historically, the philanthropic sector has been seen as a provincial sphere, a domain of states. However, there is an increasing tendency to acknowledge the role of non-state actors in international relations.