Philanthropy is often conflated with charity, a sort of blank-minded "giving back" to those less fortunate, but these are actually two distinct areas of work. Charity refers to direct services that assist people in immediate need. Donating to a homeless shelter, for example, or to COVID relief efforts, is an example of charity.

Philanthropy, on the other hand, refers to using private assets to generate public outcomes. The earliest modern philanthropists remind me of startup founders, driven less by benevolence and more by the hubris to believe they can shape the world to their liking. If venture capital is risk capital for private goods, philanthropy is risk capital for public goods.

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