Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Benjamin Franklin - Philanthropist:
Philanthropy Lesson (4th)
Lesson 2
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students will learn about the contributions made by Benjamin Franklin to the common good. They will categorize his accomplishments in the nonprofit, business and government sectors. They will select a quote from Franklin that they would like to apply to their own lives.


One 45 to 50 minute class period


The learner will:

  • list Benjamin Franklin’s contributions to the common good.
  • discover and illustrate Franklin’s philosophy about the common good from quotes found in Poor Richard’s Almanack.
  • describe how Franklin’s actions fit in the nonprofit sector, the business sector and the government sector.
  • select and illustrate a Franklin quote that has personal meaning.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

  Motivate others to take responsibility for the common good by sharing the wisdom of Ben Franklin with others.


  • A teacher created poster with the quote from Ben Franklin, “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves” and an appropriate picture from a magazine or a drawing (for the Anticipatory Set).
  • Student copies of Attachment One: Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man
    (Note: Because of specific vocabulary the reading level may be difficult for some readers. The teacher should read this along with the students and make necessary comments.)
  • Large drawing paper, or construction paper for each student
  • Markers, crayons, paint, old magazines and any other poster making materials
Handout 1
Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:


Show the students the teacher created poster and ask what they think the quotes mean and who they think is the author of the quote.  Tell the children that they are going to learn about the man who wrote this and about his contributions to the United States as well as to society and the common good.


  • Write the name Benjamin Franklin on the board or chart paper.  Ask the students to brainstorm everything they know about Franklin.  (Write responses under his name.)

  • Distribute copies of Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man.  Have selected students read the paragraphs aloud.  Add to his list of accomplishments as the article is read. Discuss his contributions to the common good as cited in the document.

  • Put the term nonprofit sector on the board or chart paper.  Explain that it is made up of all organizations that are not part of the government or private business.   Give examples.  Discuss with students, and note on the list, which of Franklin’s accomplishments were in the nonprofit sector, the government sector or the business sector.  The list may include such items as: Printer – Business, First Volunteer Fire Brigade – Nonprofit, member of the Continental Congress – Government, postmaster – government, first lending library – nonprofit, founded Pennsylvania Hospital – nonprofit, author – business, etc.

  • Introduce Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic) by Benjamin Franklin.  (If possible have a copy to show the students.)  Discuss the quotes from the Almanack that are cited on the handout. Be sure the students understand the meaning and ask them to discuss how they are associated with the common good.

  • Tell the students that they are going to select one of the quotes they think has meaning for their own lives and create a poster.  Show the initial poster used in the Anticipatory Set as an example.  Tell the students that they should use pictures, words and designs on their posters to communicate the message of the quote.  Distribute the materials and have them make their own posters.

  • (Optional) Display the completed posters with a heading “Benjamin Franklin – A Philanthropist”.


The posters should be colorful, graphic should represent the quote and the text should be clearly written.  The students should have been actively involved in the discussion of Benjamin Franklin.

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Barbara Dillbeck
Learning to Give


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man

Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a caring man 
(1706 - 1790)

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1706. When he was 17 he moved to Philadelphia. By that time, he spent a lot of his time reading and writing. As an accomplished author, philanthropist, inventor, political leader, Philosopher, diplomat, scientist and printer, he was respected by many people.

Benjamin Franklin had many talents and interests.  He was always thinking and asking questions about life and the world around him. Franklin wanted to help people and his community. He felt that people had certain rights and that those rights should be respected.

Franklin also believed that there should be a strong federal government. In 1775 he was one of the members of the Continental Congress. This was the first organized governmental body of the Thirteen Original Colonies. The Declaration of Independence was written by Benjamin Franklin and many other important men at this meeting.

Mr. Franklin was a very successful businessman also. He owned his own printing business and general store. He used his printing press to print his famous book Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic). Many of the lessons that he learned throughout his life he included in this book.

Franklin continually worked on improving himself.  He also felt that it was important to improve the lives of others and help care for them. He was the first person to organized fund raising events to raise money to help those in need. Franklin gave a lot of his own money to many worldwide causes.
As an inventor, he was constantly trying to make life a little easier for people. Some of the things that he invented were a stove that could be used for cooking and heating at the same time, bifocal glasses and the lightening rod.

Franklin held many public offices throughout his life. One of his most famous jobs he held was Deputy Postmaster General for the colonies. Our present day postal system dates back to the colonial days. The duties of the Postmaster General included seeing that the postal system ran smoothly. This is still true today over 200 years later.

Even though Mr. Franklin owned two slaves, he eventually set them free because he realized that no one should own another person.  When he freed his slaves, he became an abolitionist. An abolitionist is someone who supports getting rid of something that is bad or wrong. He became president of an abolitionist group that fought against slavery.

When he died in 1790, over 20,000 people attended his funeral.



Some Examples from Poor Richard’s Almanack

  • “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”

  • “A good example is the best sermon.”

  • When asked what was the best way to get ahead in the world, he said,
    “The nearest way to come to glory, is to do that for conscience which we would do for glory.”

  • Franklin said that the noblest question in the world was:
    “What good may I do in it?”

  • The importance of caring and public service runs throughout his work.
    “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth nor Liberty to purchase power,”
    “The poor have little, beggars none, the rich too much, enough not one,”
    “To bear other people's afflictions, every one has courage enough, and to spare.”

Benjamin Franklin Web site:

Learning to Give Briefing Paper about Benjamin Franklin found at http://www.learningtogive.org/papers/index.asp?bpid=96

Philanthropy Framework:

Submit a Comment

Unit Contents:

Overview:Community Philanthropy: Intro. to Philanthropy Unit (4th) Summary


Story of Philanthropy (A): Philanthropy Lesson (4th)
Benjamin Franklin - Philanthropist:
Philanthropy Lesson (4th)

All rights reserved. Permission is granted to freely use this information for nonprofit (noncommercial), educational purposes only. Copyright must be acknowledged on all copies.