The most detailed digital resource about the past 500 years of global philanthropy is now available online at  The digital exhibition highlights 200 moments in global philanthropy illustrated by almost 100 rare media assets, including documents, audio and video.

1751: Donors to Pennsylvania Hospital received a contributor's certificate like this one, awarded to George Cadwalader for his donation of one hundred dollars in 1856. This is equal to nearly $3,000 today. #charitable #philanthropy

1751: Donors to Pennsylvania Hospital received a contributor’s certificate like this one, awarded to George Cadwalader for his donation of one hundred dollars in 1856. This is equal to nearly $3,000 today. #charitable #philanthropy

Each entry is a building block that ultimately helps answer the question, “How did modern philanthropy begin and evolve into what we see today?”

“Philanthropy means ‘love of mankind.’ The History of Modern Philanthropy is an interactive resource about incredible acts of charity—in all forms—that are representative of mankind’s goodwill. These events shaped philanthropy as we know it,” said Eileen Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust, the site’s curator. “Today’s Philanthropy 3.0 is the result of centuries of societal benevolence. With the launch of this site and the unparalleled access it provides to historical documents and media, we hope to inspire thought, conversation, and action. The site is a digestible overview of the evolution of philanthropy—a $358 billion sector in the US—that touches everyone’s lives in one way or another.”

The free, open-source, permanent digital exhibition is organized into five time periods in the evolution of philanthropy: 1500 to 1749 “New Meaning in a Changing World,” 1750 to 1889 “Upheaval & Reform,” 1890 to 1929 “Lasting Change,” 1930 to 1979 “Redefining Philanthropy,” and 1980 to the current day “Global Outlook of Giving.”

Supplementing the 200 brief entries about important philanthropic moments are 95 historical images, videos, documents and audio clips, many rarely seen or easily accessed, including:

  • Deed of Trust, dated 1552, that provided for the day-to-day operations of the Haseki Hurrem Sultan charitable complex in Jerusalem, which lifted the influence of female benefactors for the first time.
  • Document from 1638 that memorializes the earliest known American fundraising effort making Harvard the first institute of higher education in the US.
  • Audio file from 1918 of a song “The One Red Rose the Soldier Knows,” dedicated to the life-saving efforts of the Red Cross nurses; also a poster.
  • Photograph circa 1960 illustrating the grass roots efforts of voter registration initiatives, funded by philanthropists, which sought to enfranchise African Americans.
  • Audio file from 1995 of Ms. Oseola McCarty explaining why, immediately upon retirement as a life-long washerwoman, she donated $150,000 (half her life savings) to the University of Southern Mississippi to fund scholarships, proving philanthropy is not reserved for the wealthy.

“Despite the voluminous content online, a consolidated source that told the story of modern philanthropy didn’t exist,” said Heisman.  “This lack of information presented an opportunity to create a well-researched resource that can grow over time. As our site tells the history of giving, we hope it also inspires new acts of charity and new philanthropists.”

Visit and for image highlights, follow the site on Instagram.