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

Participatory Citizenship
Lesson 4
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


 Students view primary documents to explore public policy on service. They make meaning of the government role and citizen responsibility in civic action. They make a personal plan of service based on their available time, talent, and treasure.


One 45-Minute Class Period, Plus time to carry out a service project


 The learner will:

  • make meaning of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and the Kennedy Service Act of 2009.
  • understand the role of government related to service.
  • define their personal responsibility as participatory citizens to support democracy and the common good.
  • make a service pledge.

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.
  • Students make a pledge of service and carry it out.
  • Students perform an act of democratic citizenship in the school or community including surveying, group problem solving, or advocacy.


  • internet access to read the National and Community Service Act of 1990
  • internet access to view the Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009
  • student copies of Attachment One: Personal Pledge of Service


Handout 1
Personal Pledge of Service

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Ask the students to reflect on their own about the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship. Then have them turn to a partner and discuss which type of government is more likely to tolerate or encourage questioning the government's actions. Also, partners discuss which type of government is more likely to encourage participation in government policy decisions.  Share the following quote from the article, “The Vital Importance of Civil Society and Private Philanthropy in Building Egypt’s Democracy.” By Steven Lawry, 2/20/2011 (Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations). “Egypt’s civil society is small, though hardly ineffective.  Civil society organizations have been working bravely for decades on severe problems of poverty, human rights, and social disempowerment.  Official policies toward independent social action have been consistently hostile. 
“Laws governing nonprofit organizations impede the registration of organizations dedicated to charitable activity, especially where an organization’s mission is focused on matters that the government believes to be politically sensitive.  This includes virtually all human rights work; most work involving community organizing for poverty alleviation; and work on reproductive rights.”

  • Ask the students to come together as a whole group to share their discussions. Ask, "Why do dictatorships try to limit citizen action for the common good? Which of the things you discussed as partners are rights of democratic citizens, and which are responsibilities?"
  • Have the students recall the four economic sectors of the U.S. (government, for-profit/business, nonprofit/civil society, and household). Tell them that none of these sectors on its own can meet all the needs of the people, but they work together to pick up responsibility when another sector fails. Remind the students that most major changes in U.S. history have been led by citizen action trying to affect public policy.
  • Show the students the primary document of the National and Community Service Act of 1990. This government act encourages people and organizations to serve or take action. Tell the students to read the (a) findings and (b) purposes on pages 6 and 7 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA). Ask them to verbally summarize the purpose of the act.
  • Scan ahead to pages 34-42. On these pages, the NCSA describes five Corps that adresses specific needs (education, health, clean energy, veterans, and economics). Have the students read about activity ideas and indicators of success for each of these areas. Discuss ideas for service the students can do that arise from this reading.
  • Show the students the website for the Kennedy Serve America Act. This act amends and expands the NCSA of 1990. Have students read the Fact Sheet and the Detailed Summary (especially the school-based section).
  • Discuss why the government wants to support service through these acts. Discuss the government role and citizen responsibility evident in these Acts. What is each citizen's service-related reponsibility in a democracy?  How do you think the government can motivate citizens to take action?
  • Have students make a pledge of service that utilizes their time, talent, or treasure for the common good. They may use the pledge form (Attachment One).
  • Exit Ticket question: Is the government stepping in because the household sector has failed to respond to need? Explain your answer.



There is not one correct answer for the Exit Ticket question. Evaluate the students' responses for the quality of their thinking and how they incorporated their understanding of how government philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and individual philanthropy complement one another.

Curriculum Connection:

Language Arts: Have students read an article about youth action to protect the common good when the government cannot protect it. Example: Egyptian youth protect library during 2011 protests: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/01/alexandria-youth-protecting-library

Social Studies: Identify other democratic countries around the world and compare their level of philanthropy to the U.S.

Math: Compare statistics about the percentage of people who are civically engaged over the past 25 years. http://www.civicyouth.org/ and  http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/role_impact/performance_research.asp#CHA_2010

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Youth Voice: When students make a personal pledge of service, this is an opportunity for them to reflect on what is most meaningful to them. Their service may utilize their talents and be carried out with people they care about--their peers, younger children, or elderly people in the community.

Bibliographical References:


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Personal Pledge of Service


I,                                                  , (fill in your name) plan to be a “point of light,” giving my time, talent, or treasure to take action for the common good.
I see a need for
and I pledge to
My plan is to take the following steps:

Philanthropy Framework:

Submit a Comment

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