• Brendan Lee

Saving Charity (Part 1): A History

Updated: Nov 13, 2019



Charity has for thousands of years been a way for the poorest of society to get help from those with the means to help them.


It is one of the oldest means of wealth redistribution in society and something that people throughout time have wanted to participate in. The issue these days is that most charities are opaque, promising vague goals and using meaningless slogans to solicit funds, then managing the money given with a lax ruleset and little to no accountability.

In this series of posts, we’re going to cover the history of charity, the rise of big charities, government and the death of philanthropic funding, big charity today, venture philanthropy, and the role Bitcoin can play.



History of charity


There are hundreds of records of human generosity throughout history.

Some of the best recorded and most notable include:

  • Ancient Hebrews used mandatory tithes (taxes) to benefit the poor

  • The first use of the word ‘Philanthropy’ in the drama “Prometheus Bound”, written by Aeschylus - the word itself comes from combining ‘Phil’ and ‘Anthro’, or ‘Love’ and ‘Man’

  • The establishment of Plato’s Academy in 387BC as a group working voluntarily for the public good.

  • Augustus, first Emperor of the Roman Empire is estimated to have given public aid to over 200,000 people during his reign

  • In 1180, Moses ben Maimon authors ‘Mishneh Torah’ which includes the eight levels of Charity

  • In 1643, Lady Mowlson bequeaths $500 to Harvard University, creating one of the longest-running scholarship programs still in existence today, and which was the basis for the ‘National Scholarship Plan’, used by American students to reach higher education since 1934

  • In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville publishes “Democracy in America” in which he highlights the philanthropic spirit of Americans as one of the countries strengths

  • In 1913, the US Congress passes the Revenue act of 1913 which exempts charitable organizations from paying taxes…

  • Following this, in 1935, Corporations were then allowed to deduct charitable contributions from their taxable profit.


Today, we have seen the rise of ‘The Giving Pledge’ which encourages the world's wealthiest individuals to pass on the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Notable donors include Paul Allen, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Bill and Melinda Gates, Elon Musk and more


Philanthropy is part of who we are, and engaging in acts of charity can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying things a person can do, especially when the results of that philanthropy are shared with the person lifting up his fellow man.


Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of 6 of our "Saving Charity" series. Subscribe to our newsletter below.



About Brendan Lee, Head of Technology

Mr. Lee's career to date has been focused on increasingly senior roles within industrial design, automation, and control, focusing on software design and implementation. Most recently, Mr. Lee was the Bitcoin Engineer Lead for Tokenized Group Pty Ltd, a company responsible for the Bitcoin Tokenized protocol, which is a comprehensive, regulation-friendly solution for businesses to create tokens for real-world assets on the BSV blockchain. Follow him on Twitter


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