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Philanthropy is the act of donating. Any donation is considered philanthropy, whether it is money, property, or services. The amount donated does not matter; the act of giving any amount is considered to be philanthropy, whether it is one dollar placed directly into the hands of someone in need or a million dollars donated to a nonprofit organization. Philanthropy can be practiced by corporations and institutions, but the word is more commonly associated with an individual or a family.

A philanthropist is a person who practices philanthropy. The term is usually used to describe those that donate large sums of money, such as millions of dollars (USD). People who donate smaller sums of money are just as important, and are often sacrificing more of their disposable income than a rich person that donates a larger amount. People who donate smaller amounts of money, however, are not nearly as visible to others, and so are not usually given the title.

As previously mentioned, philanthropy can be done through the donation of money, property, or services. Each of these areas is important, and does a great deal to help others. A few examples of each are as follows:

Money. Money can be donated directly to those in need by handing it to them, or it can be given to charities and other organizations to distribute. Many philanthropic people donate a specific percentage of their income, called a tithe. Some people choose to donate financial assets rather than money, such as donating stock certificates to a favorite university. Some philanthropists choose to give their money away when they die, putting instructions into their will as to which charitable organizations or people it should go to.

Property. Property can be donated just like money, though not quite as easily. Not every person needs every item, and not every charity can handle every property donation. Both new and used articles of clothing are usually accepted by most charities. Other common items like strollers and electronics can be donated to charity stores, also called thrift shops. Canned or prepackaged food can be donated to soup kitchens, some shelters, and other charity centers; large amounts of unpackaged food that come directly from businesses can also be donated. Finally, special charities and the offices of larger charities have been set up to receive gifts of large property, such as automobiles and real estate.

Services. Sometimes, people need assistance. One human being offering their time and skills to another is an example of this sort of donation. Some people donate their time by working in soup kitchens or delivering meals. Others visit people in nursing homes so that they will have company. Those with specialized knowledge can donate their skills in many different ways, such as being legal representatives for those with little money or tutoring children in need. Simple acts such as mowing another person’s lawn or repairing someone else’s broken stairs are both examples of benevolent actions involving service.

Self. One of the most benevolent acts a person can do is donate a part of themselves to another, though this philanthropic act is often overlooked. For instance, blood donations are needed constantly in order to save people’s lives, and can be done at local blood banks. Potential bone marrow donors need to register so that they can be matched if someone needs a transplant to live. A healthy person can donate one of their kidneys to another and still survive, though they may have complications later in life. Even in death, organs can be harvested from a donor and transplanted into those that need them, directly saving lives. Donations of one’s self are some of the most altruistic and philanthropic possible, and directly alter the lives of others.