Robert Payton (in 1988) on philanthropy as a civic virtue:
Civil disobedience and even revolution have thus often been thought to be a virtue—the virtue of political courage—whether directed against public policy or private interest. Philanthropic activity—voluntary initiative for the public good—is the mechanism by which many Americans use their First Amendment rights to reform American society. Such efforts often require demonstration of the virtues of courage and charity, hope and justice. The much-debated virtue of prudence—practice of the virtue of knowing the truth of the consequences of one's acts before committing them—may be lacking. Hence the problematic nature of philanthropy, a qualified virtue as all of them are.
When we speak of "social capital markets," or reduce giving to a computerized social capital stock exchange, where atomized donors push buttons to transfer cash without leaving their chair, or think of giving as a strange sort of double bottom line business venture, or as a weird form of investment, we are at risk, perhaps, of losing touch with the animating ideal of civic virtue expressed as "voluntary action for the public good."
Think good deeds. Giving is a subset of good deeds. Think character. Giving as the formation and expression of moral identity in community with others. Think obligation, as in the "proper uses of riches," an ancient topic of moral essays and sermons. Or, the heck with it, think investment and markets, if that is your only language of value, but your giving however you disguise it is a civic virtue all the same. You need not be ashamed of that.