Become a Philanthropreneur

Friday, 9th January 2004

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In the mid-1980’s, a film called Brewster’s Millions followed the story of how a minor league baseball player, played by comedian Richard Pryor, had to waste $30m in 30 days in order to inherit $300m from a recently deceased rich relative. Nearly twenty years on, the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, and his foundation, are looking at contributing billions to good causes.

In a modern day tale mirroring that of history’s most famous philanthropists, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates has realised, like many before him, that you can’t take it with you.

Have you ever noticed that when people succeed in business, amassing a wealth so huge they surpass the GDP of some small nations, they often turn to philanthropy and give it away quicker than they accumulated it. I call this the “Deathbed Effect”. As we all grow older and wiser, many of us realise that there is more to life than money. In an attempt to leave a real legacy (one that changes people’s lives and the world for the better), many rich individuals look to use their wealth to make a difference, with the hope of predominantly being remembered in the history books for the good they did for humankind and not just for the great company they created.

A common definition of a “philanthropist” (which comes from the Greek words “love” and “human being”) is:

“Someone who devotes his or her time, money, or effort towards the benefit of others and the world.”

The definition is usually followed with “Most often applied to someone who gives large amounts to charity”.

So to become a philanthropist, the usual route is to spend your time amassing a fortune and in the autumn of you life, give it all away.

I feel the time has come however for a new kind of philanthropist, something I call the “Philanthropreneur”. I would define a philanthropreneur as

“The next generation of philanthropists who devotes their time and effort along with their entrepreneurial skills to ultimately benefit others and the world at large.”

The key here is “dedicates their life” and “entrepreneurial activity”. Whilst many philanthropists spent only their latter years focusing on good causes, those who strive to become one, can combined their entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen to good causes earlier in life, potentially effecting a much larger change compared to anything they could achieve with a treasure chest towards the end of their life.

In a way a philanthropreneur cuts out the middleman. Instead of spending their life trying to amass a personal fortune, they create wealth directly for good causes every day, and that money starts working its magic straight away. If the world’s most effective entrepreneurs and business leaders embraced this philosophy today, we might start to see some astounding changes in our world tomorrow.

©2004 Mark Desvaux. This article is an extract from Mind The GapTM

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