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

Motivations for Giving: Penny Drive
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Explore the local community to identify nonprofit services available. They compare these to the services of business and government to understand the different sectors. They investigate motivations for nonprofits and individual giving.


One fifty-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • identify local organizations that provide goods and services to the community.
  • define philanthropy, give examples of it and describe some of the motivations for charitable giving.
  • assess their own motivations for giving.
  • hold a penny drive or collection drive to address an identified need.

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.

The class may hold a penny drive to raise money for a chosen cause. To hold the competition, each class or team competes against all others. Each team has a jar in a central location labeled with the team name and the charity they are raising money for. The idea is to earn the most money for your class or grade. In a penny war, teams try to collect the most pennies, and silver coins count against their total. This creates a competition where other teams try to sabotage the other teams by adding silver coins or dollar bills to the competitors' jars. The value of the coins count against the total, so a quarter subtracts 25 points from a jar of pennies. You can have two winners: one winner is the team that has the most points and another winner collects the highest monetary value.


  • Motivations for Charitable Giving (Attachment One)
Handout 1
Motivations for Charitable Giving

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Take a few minutes to have the learners describe some characteristics of their community (i.e. population, economic condition, employment opportunities, housing, schools, etc).  Write their comments on the display board and encourage them to keep those community characteristics in mind as they name as many community organizations as they can that provide goods and services necessary for those who live in their community and enrich the life of the community members. (i.e. public schools, grocery store, Red Cross, a local soup kitchen or shelter, gas station, fast food restaurants, hospital, the fire department, health clinic, Secretary of State Office, the Post Office, the Rotary Club, etc.)  As these are given, list them on the display as well.

  • When the learners have finished naming as many ‘helping’ local organizations as they can, go over the list and have the learners ‘help’ you decide if the organization is a “C”-Corporation/Business, “NP”- Nonprofit organization, including both religious and secular), “G”- Government. 

  • Point out to the learners that this list is proof that many ‘helping’ services are not done by the “G”- Government alone.  Because the government does not have the funds or the ability to do everything, or chooses not to do everything, there are others who provide goods and services either for profit or not for profit.

  • Place the term “philanthropy” on the display board.  Solicit definitions from the learners.  Explain that philanthropy is the giving of time, talent, and treasure for the sake of another or the common good.  Philanthropy also refers to voluntary action for the public good.  Remind the learners that many of the organizations that provide services for the public are philanthropic.  Since nonprofit organizations are not in the business to earn a profit, they have fewer restrictions placed on them from the government than for profit businesses.  This allows non-profit organizations more room to be creative and try new ideas to improve social services (i.e. address issues of poverty, environmental stewardship, promote the arts, preserve historical buildings, etc.).  In many cases the nonprofit sector is the one that initiates social change.

  • Have the learners identify ways in which people may be involved in “philanthropic giving.”  Examples may include: giving donations to a faith organization, contributing to United Way, donating used clothing, volunteering with the Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, contributing Toys for Tots, collecting pop can tops for the Ronald McDonald House, saving Campbell Soup can labels for the local school, raking leaves/shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, babysitting for someone without pay, etc.

  • Ask the learners to recall and list ways in which they have been involved in charitable giving through participation in their school.

  • Once a good list has been generated, ask the learners if this statement is true.  “Only the very rich people are able to give.”

  • To stimulate their thinking further, ask the learners, “Why would anyone want to be a philanthropist, and give their money away?”  After fielding a few of their responses, distribute Motivations for Charitable Giving (Attachment One).

  • Talk about these motivations and ask the students to list any additional ones they may think of.

  • Ask the learners to again read the motivations for charitable giving and circle those reasons that may personally motivation them or their family members to contribute to a charitable cause and/or to the school’s collection drive or penny drive.


The learner’s involvement in the group discussions and the depth of thinking and understanding evident in his/her comments and feedback, provide the evaluation for this lesson.

Learning Link(s): (click to view)

Reflection: (click to view)

Bibliographical References:

  • Prince, Russ A. and Karen M. File. The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001: 0-7879-6057-8.

  • http://www.guidestar.org. Guide Star is a searchable website with a data base that includes financial reports and program summaries on more than 600,000 nonprofit organizations. The financial information is gleaned from IRS Form 990s and additional data is collected from nonprofits themselves.

Lesson Developed By:

Dennis VanHaitsma
Curriculum Consultant
Learning to Give


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Motivations for Charitable Giving

  • Some people give because of their sense of belonging to a community.  They give because they consider nonprofit organizations more effective at delivering services and more attuned with community needs.

  • Some people give because they feel it is a moral obligation. They believe everyone needs to take responsibility for creating a better world and should not expect personal recognition for volunteering time, talent or treasure.

  • Some people see philanthropy as “good business”. They are motivated by the personal tax and other financial benefits philanthropy gives.

  • Some people enjoy the socializing and entertainment that are a part of contributing to a good cause.

  • Some people “pay back” in return for what they received in life.

  • Some people see philanthropy as a family tradition. They were raised in a family that stressed the importance of giving.

  • Some people feel a sense of purpose and personal fulfillment when they contribute. They see themselves as the true philanthropists who are not concerned with business or personal gain.


From The Seven Faces of Philanthropy by Russ A. Prince and Karen M. File

Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Motivations for Giving: Penny Drive Summary


Motivations for Giving: Penny Drive

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