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Etymologically, ‘philanthropy’ means “the love of humanity” and comes from Greek mythology (see here).  However, move forward the odd year or two and the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of a ‘philanthropist’ is ‘a person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes’ (see here).
It is now associated with Andrew Carnegie and his well known quote “he who dies rich, dies disgraced”.  With people such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet pioneering this approach, although the causes they are trying to help are very much in need, there are so many options it can seem too much to handle.

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So, the easiest way to approach it is just to ask yourself some straightforward questions.
There are two sets of questions you need to address (and it does not matter which set you answer first).
First set of questions:
Has something personal touched you or has another tragedy triggered your interest?

1)   Do you want to help something right now or do you have a long-term vision?

2)   Do you want to support your community, nationally or internationally?

3)   Do you want to do this with your grandchildren? You can either use it to teach them the value of giving or use it to do something together.

4)   Do you want to do this on your own or work with others?

5)   Do you want to raise your profile by doing it or would you rather stay off the radar?

6)   Do you just want to contribute financially and have you thought about how much you can afford? Or do you want to give your time, your skill set,
your peer group and raise the charity’s profile?

7)   How long do you want to do this for? Do you want to leave a legacy behind you? 

There is no order you need to answer these in – just write down which ones you already know the answer to, and then think about the others.

Second set of questions:
So, what ‘charity’ do you want to address? A charity is a group designed to benefit society or a specific group of people. Which of the below do you feel most connected with?
1)  Human rights / conflict resolution
2)  Relief of poverty
3)  Environment
4)  Animal Welfare
5)  Community Development
6)  Armed forces / fire, police, rescue, ambulance services
7)  Disadvantaged groups (age, ill health, financial hardship etc)
8)  Minority groups
9)  Religion
10)  Sports
11)  Arts / culture / heritage / science
12)  Education
13)  Health 

Where is there a need?  It is best not to presume that because you care about the cause, that the particular problem you identify is not already being looked at by someone else.  It you are planning to give quite a substantial sum or are planning to be more than the bank, it is quite important for you to scan the landscape and see what other people are doing.  This link provides information that can help you to look around effectively.  Although it looks quite long, just scan it and see which one attracts your interest the most.

Graham Ross Russell, 15/04/2015