Uncategorized Apr 30, 2024

Some phrases just become part of everyday language. Many come from Shakespeare but occasionally a comedian says something so funny it’s embraced by the world over.

John Cleese is a comedian best known for (TV show) Fawlty Towers but before that he was in a group called Monty Python, with 4 other comic geniuses. In the cult film The Life of Brian he asks “what did the Romans ever do for us?”[1] And the group respond “the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system…”.  It’s funnier when you watch it – trust me.


As well as wine, irrigation etc, the Romans also popularised[2] a word I hear at least 10 times a day – Philanthropy. It comes from ‘philanthropia’ which means ‘love of humanity’. Its roots are Latin: ‘philos’ (loving) and ‘anthropos’ (human being) combined.

Today, modern philanthropy embodies the act of promoting the welfare of others through financial contributions, volunteerism, or advocacy. It transcends mere generosity, encompassing a deep-seated commitment to addressing societal issues and fostering positive change. In essence, philanthropy portrays empathy, compassion, and altruism in action, driving individuals and organisations to make a meaningful difference in the world.


The word ‘capitalism’ derives from the Latin word ‘capitalis’ which originally referred to ‘of the head’ in a literal sense. Over time, it’s evolved to mean ‘principal’ or ‘chief’, especially in reference to money.

The modern usage of ‘capitalism’ which emerged in the industrial era means ‘an economic system in which the country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit’.

Quite the opposite to philanthropy yes? Not bad, just different.


Collaboration derives again from the Latin word ‘collaborare’ which is formed from the prefix ‘com’ meaning ‘together’ and the verb ‘laborare’ meaning to work. So, collaboration essentially means ‘to work together towards a common goal’.


The word partnership is – yes you guessed it – the Latin word ‘partitio’ meaning ‘sharing’ or ‘division’. It embodies an alliance between individuals or organisations to share resources, responsibilities and/or goals. The concept transcends cooperation but implies shared and mutual benefit.

All four words – Philanthropy, Capitalism, Collaboration and Partnership are integral to the way we live our lives in the 21st century.  Even with the Conscious Capitalism movement[3], the necessity for companies to demonstrate their Corporate Citizenship (CSR[4]) and report against ESG[5] and SDG’s[6], there is still a fundamental difference between Philanthropy and modern Capitalism, Collaboration and Partnership.

Not only theoretical and philosophical, but also legal. When a company partners with a charity and derives a commercial difference (eg there is mutual benefit), it cannot be called a ‘philanthropic donation’ because according to the ATO, it’s not. If a company’s ‘philanthropic foundation’ invests money into a charity and claims a philanthropic tax deduction, they cannot ask or demand logo recognition or PR. Again, it would be contrary to the ATO rules.


Read more about the practical realities – and consequences - of confusing Philanthropy and Partnership, in Part 2 HERE.


Hailey Cavill - Jaspers

[1] I’ve paraphrased here.  He actually said, as part of a discussion about the Romans: “and what have they ever given us in return?”

[2] I say popularised because its roots are Greek, but Romans made the act of philanthropy – and the word – common.  Until they got greedy, exploitative and immoral, that is!

[3] Conscious Capitalism – Harvard Business Review article

[4] CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility

[5] ESG – Environment, Social & Governance

[6] SDG’s - UN Sustainable Development Goals


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