Rethinking Philanthropy for effective Social Change: Can we all be philanthropists?

When I think philanthropy and as the concept continues to grow popular amongst Africa’s elites, I find myself asking the question –  “Why”? Not why philanthropy, but rather, why be philanthropic. In the most basic terms, philanthropy is the act of giving to help the less privileged and usually comes from a place of altruism where the “haves” are seen to give to the “have-nots”.

For some reason, philanthropy seems to be ascribed to only the wealthy people in society, which is perhaps based on a general belief that they have in excess and automatically should be saddled with the responsibility of providing help to the underprivileged.

I believe however, that philanthropy is not only for the big and successful business leaders, it is open to all. Any individual willing to give to support a cause for positive change for an individual or a community as a whole is by my definition a philanthropist.

Going back to my “Why” question – the reason for giving should not be about the value of money but the change it seeks to achieve irrespective of the magnitude. As such, rethinking philanthropy as an act open to all and done in an intentional manner, will spark positive social change to my mind. According to Theo Spanos Dunfey, Executive Director of Global Citizens Circle – Sociologists define social change as changes in human interactions occurring over time with profound and long-term consequences for society.

Being intentional helps us move away from giving with no impact, to giving that yields results and drives change. Similar to the concept of the World Bank’s Result-Based-Financing Framework for development projects, I think that individuals should start giving in a result-oriented manner. For instance, if people will consider these following questions when giving:

  • What is the objective?
  • Who are the beneficiaries of this objective?
  • Is there a service provider one can partner with to deliver the objective effectively?
  • On what condition will funds be given to beneficiaries or service providers?

To put this in perspective, below are a couple of illustrations that can generally guide intentional giving:

Illustration 1

  • Objective/Problem Statement: Increase financial literacy skills amongst the underbanked youth
  • Target Beneficiary(ies): 10 Secondary school students
  • Service Provider: Retail Bank with an inclusive value proposition and Financial Literacy tuition provider
  • Incentive/Condition for payment: Give some money for attending the financial literacy lessons and some money to open a savings account.





Illustration 2


  • Objective/Problem Statement: Young female cleaner at work that is paying her way through school because her parents can’t afford to send her to University.
  • Target Beneficiary(ies): One young female cleaner
  • Service Provider: None required
  • Incentive/Condition for Payment: Percentage contribution or reimbursement of fees paid at the end of every session.

What this process of giving intentionally does effectively is, it allows one feel they’re making a difference and contributing meaningfully to the development of society. My summation therefore is this, we can all be philanthropists giving intentionally in our little ways.

On that note, I’ll leave you with this thought Imagine a world where each person that gives, does so intentionally to drive positive behaviour and the ripple effect of  such transformative behaviour coursing through our societies.


Chinasa Ken-Ugwuh

E-mail Address:

LinkedIn: @Chinasa Ken-Ugwuh


Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.