About Learning to Give


Learning to Give's vision is a world where all youth are knowledgeable and equipped for lifelong engagement in philanthropy as givers of time, talent, and treasure for the common good. 


Provide materials and support for educators, youth leaders, nonprofits, and families to help youth develop skills and agency for active roles in the community.

Philanthropy Education Empowers Youth

Learning to Give philanthropy education resources help families, educators, youth groups, communities, and youth themselves ... 

Follow this journey through the resources under the website menu above:

Build Community > Develop Skills > Take Action.

About Learning to Give pdf

Based on research-based standards that define what young people should know and be able to do, philanthropy education teaches about civil society and empowers youth action and lifelong engagement.

Philanthropy Standards

Why Now?

Now more than ever our world needs every person to be aware of their voice and value to the common good. Whether as volunteers, voters, contributors to a cause, social activists, or leaders, each person's voice is part of a strong and diversely talented civil society envisioning a better world.

The nonprofit sector gives power to all voices and assures we have the arts as well as services for people who are hungry, elderly, or in need. The skills and attitudes necessary to promote civility, community cohesion, and enjoyment of life are skills and experiences found in the civil society sector. Yet an understanding of this sector remains a mystery to many American children. 

Proven Quality

Over 25 years of proven quality arise out of Learning to Give's core operating values:  

  • Put equity at the center of our journey
  • Meet youth where they are today
  • Use of best practices for youth engagement 
  • Respect for educators and youth leaders as professionals 
  • Community-building, abundance


Research tells us to intentionally teach giving.

Giving and generosity are learned behaviors. Young people are capable in their own right and deserve to be actively engaged in questioning the status quo and taking vital roles of volunteers, advocates, and experts who drive change. Philanthropy education  promotes active participation for youth of all ages that guides life-long practice and career opportunities.

"Children's empathy, sympathy, and perspective-taking skills develop from around 4 years of age and increase with encouragement" (Ongley et al., 2014).

"If children are involved in action for the benefit of others before the age of 10, they are twice as likely to sustain it throughout their lifetime as young people who only start at age 16-18" (HM Government, 2018).

"While philanthropy is an altruistic impulse, it is also a learned behavior (Falco et al., 1998; Schervish, 1997). 

A study by Ottoni-Wilhelm et al. (2014) finds that young people are more likely to give and volunteer if they have been exposed to both conversations about philanthropy and role-modeling of philanthropic behaviors" (IUPUI. p. 9). 

When teachers expose students to themes of philanthropy in the Learning to Give lessons, evaluations show that their students exhibit more charitable attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors (MSU, 2006).

"Giving as an act of democratic participation in society is a way in which we can help shape the society we want, rather than simply respond to the need" (Bernholz, 2021). 

Youth Agency and Motivation

In today's world, many kids feel isolation and anxiety. They may envision their future based on the limited options they see. Many lack experience in taking responsibility to address conflict and challenges. Often, young people grow up unaware of their community’s assets or the power of the nonprofit sector.

Learning to Give helps youth learn about their communities and how they can help others with their time and talent – their unique gift. Giving promotes happiness and purpose while teaching the givers that they are a vital part of something bigger.

Philanthropy education aligns knowledge and skills with the innate caring and generosity of young people. The youth-centered experiential approach deepens motivation to learn and give through purpose, mastery and autonomy:
  • Youth become aware of needs larger than their own and take action to address them (purpose);
  • They are engaged in activities that apply and expand their learning (mastery); and
  • Young people take a role in directing their own learning experience (autonomy).

History of Learning to Give

Beginning in 1995, experts in the fields of philanthropic studies, the nonprofit/civil society sector, and a group of 40 classroom teachers from diverse backgrounds wrote the International Philanthropy Curriculum Standards, which became the foundation of Learning to Give. Lessons were specifically designed and regularly vetted by teachers and independently evaluated to meet the need for intentionally teaching the philanthropic traditions and beliefs of civil society.



This timeline shares more details about Learning to Give's history.

Timeline of LTG



In this recorded webinar, hosted by our partner Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, Dwight Burlingame from the Lilly School of Philanthropy describes his participation in the establishment of Learning to Give [description at 5:30 and history at 13:20].


Learning to Give is an endowed program of the Council of Michigan Foundations. CMF leads, strengthens and supports Michigan's community of philanthropy by emboldening and equipping Michigan philanthropy in the relentless pursuit of equitable systems and inclusive diversity, fortifying the field through public policy action, fostering the growth of current and future philanthropy leaders and advancing exemplary philanthropic practices and field expertise.

Learning to Give staff is dedicated to maintaining resources that guide parents, educators, youth groups, and the community to learn the traits of generosity, service, civic action, and change.

Learning to Give has a growth mindset. Our passion is working together in community for the good of all. These organizations and resources share our values and vision for a better world together.