About Learning to Give

To maintain a strong civil society, we set an expectation early to "do well" and "do good." From kindergarten to twelfth grade, Learning to Give students learn about and address needs while interacting with their community. 

Learning to Give ...

  • educates youth about philanthropy, the civil society sector, and the importance of giving their time, talent and treasure for the common good (knowledge),
  • equips youth by encouraging philanthropic behavior and experience (skills), and,
  • empowers youth to take voluntary citizen action for the common good in their classrooms, lives and communities (behavior).

Why Now?

The nonprofit sector 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 20 years of proven quality arise out of Learning to Give's core operating values:  

  • Respect for teachers as professionals -- written and reviewed by teachers, aligned to standards 
  • Promotion of diversity and inclusion -- all lesson plans and activity guides reviewed by a fairness committee 
  • Recognition that everyone has something to give -- efficacy of young people from diverse backgrounds and strengths, youth voice
  • Use of best practices to impact student engagement -- experience-based, student-centered, SEL, whole child 
  • Learning to Give is based in Constructivist Learning
  • Partnerships as opportunity -- nonprofit collaboration, community-building, abundance
  • Quality philanthropy content -- based in Philanthropy Standards developed by scholars and practitioners
  • Not an add-on -- philanthropy knowledge is embedded in academic content and promotes best practices

Philanthropy Standards


Research tells us to intentionally teach giving.

Most schools have a service requirement for graduation, but only a small percentage of schools teach tools and action of building community. 

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

In a recent study, 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).

Student Efficacy and Motivation

Philanthropy education aligns knowledge and skills with students' innate caring and generosity. The student-centered experiential approach deepens motivation to learn and give through purpose, mastery and autonomy:
  • Students become aware of needs larger than their own and take action to address them (purpose);
  • Students are engaged in activities that apply and expand their learning (mastery); and
  • Students 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 a civil society. 

The recorded webinar below, hosted by our partner Youth Philanthropy Initiatives of Indiana, includes a thoughtful history of Learning to Give. Dwight Burlingame, from the Lilly School of Philanthropy describes his participation in the establishment of Learning to Give, from its beginnings [description at 5:30 and history at 13:20].


Learning to Give staff is dedicated to maintaining carefully constructed teaching resources that guide teachers and students to learn the traits of generosity, service, civic action, and revolutionary change.

Our partners are some of our greatest resources. As you learn about issues, seek connections with community organizations, look for service opportunities, or want to plan a project, our partner organizations can help you in your work.