Philanthropy and Mutualism. Are They The Same?

There are several articles exploring the concept of Mutualism in the September 2022 issue of Nonprofit Quarterly Magazine.

Merriam-Webster defines mutualism as: the doctrine or practice of mutual dependence as the condition of individual and social welfare.

Philanthropy is also a practice upon which individual and social welfare are dependent. 

Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union and author of Mutualism: Building the Next Economy from the Ground Up (Random House, 2021), says, “I think mutualism is an economic and political system that builds solidarity among people within their community. It starts with a community – that’s the first element. The second is there must be some kind of exchange….and the third is that you have a long-term time horizon, because you’re passing wisdom from generation to generation.”

These elements described align directly with THG’s trademarked methodology of Hyper-Philanthropy™. Sarah’s described focus on building solidarity and long-term sustainability is critical when considering whether or not to embark upon a feasibility study, a capital campaign, or even just enhancing your annual campaign.

Philanthropy is a system that builds solidarity among people in their community. That solidarity forms a culture which is a pillar of THG’s Hyper-Philanthropic model. Another pillar, Behavioral Economics, drives the exchange element of Sara’s definition of mutualism. The long-term horizon described above aligns with an organization’s strategic vision, which is the third pillar. Finally, when this vision is communicated effectively, the response can impact multiple generations. Communication is the fourth pillar of our model.

The more I read, the more I realized almost without exception that the word “mutualism” in every article could have been replaced with the word “philanthropy”. 

Perhaps you’ll agree:

“Once you start thinking in a more reciprocal way, you start to understand that mutualism is not about charity, it’s about human beings’ strengths – our powers, our magic – and that mutualism calls on these to be in reciprocal relationship. Mutualism is about people being very much connected to one another.” ~ Sara Horowitz