Sharing Our Legacy of Giving
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Compare and contrast the roles of business, government, civil society sector, and family.
      2. Benchmark MS.6 Identify significant contributions to society that come from the civil society sector.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.8 Define civil society.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.

In this lesson, the learners write a story about philanthropists, modeled after the documentary The Gift of All. They research or interview a local philanthropist. Each learner writes a biography telling the story of the philanthropist. They share the completed biography with an elementary student, teaching that student about philanthropy and the value of giving to the community. 

PrintOne 50-Minute Session, plus time to research and write biographies

The learner will:

  • research and write a biography of a local philanthropist.
  • demonstrate and share learning to a wider community and donate books to the library.

copies of handouts below


The Gift of All: a Community of Givers, produced by The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy along with The Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Calvin College. Copyright © Grand Rapids Public Library, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2008, 2009. Streaming video available at

Learning to Give. "SOUL of Philanthropy" project. Includes links to video, related quotations, and briefing papers (biographies) 

  1. Anticipatory Set

    Point out that the documentary "The Gift of All" itself is an act of philanthropy. Ask how these stories about philanthropists can promote the common good. Tell them that the movie was funded by philanthropists. Why would they give their money and time to tell their stories to all of us? Repeat the words of Margaret Voss's statement: "We have to stand up because we saw it. We have the gift of the life we've lived that needs to be told."

  2. The people interviewed in The Gift of All documentary talked about how they learned a sense of civic responsibility. Part of their civic responsibility is to tell their story, not because they want attention, but because they want to inspire others to give and be civically responsible. This generation has something to teach the next generations about community, giving, values, and compassion. If we don't learn from them, we have lost something. The value of civic responsibility reaches far beyond what we can see. Their legacy, or gift to future generations, has a far-reaching and lasting impact in the community.

  3. Now it is our turn to tell stories of giving. The goal of this lesson is for each learner to write a story, a biography, about a local philanthropist. The story will tell about that person's connection to the community, their background, accomplishments, interesting stories, roots, family, goals, core values, significant life events, influences, career, and legacy. The stories will be shared with students at an elementary school to teach them about their community and inspire others to give. The story itself will be an act of philanthropy because it will be shared and make the community a better place as it honors civic virtue.

  4. Use the handout Philanthropist Research and Rubric to guide the expectations of the project. The audience is elementary level students, so the final product will look like a picture book with readable text, images, and appropriate comprehension level for the age.

  5. Beginning with the handout below: Interview Questions, talk about what to ask in an interview of their philanthropist and brainstorm additional questions. Learners who write about family members and other familiar people will conduct most of their research through interviews. Learners who write about well-known community philanthropists may conduct most of their research through the library.

  6. Guide the learners to conduct research, set up interviews, write a rough draft, find images, revise and edit drafts, and make a final copy. This project may take several days. Provide materials as needed to help students publish their philanthropist biographies.

  7. When their books are all edited and published, they prepare for their field trip to read to younger children. Remind the learners that their book is an act of philanthropy in two ways: in content (learning about philanthropy and a community philanthropist) and in sharing time and literacy skills with a younger student. Spend some time practicing reading aloud before you go.

  8. They may prepare some questions to ask the students to help them engage in the reading. A question or statement before reading will help focus the students. Questions during reading will check for understanding. Questions after reading are to help the younger students connect the book to the concepts of community giving.

  9. After the field trip, reflect on the entire project. What did they learn about their legacy of giving? What inspired them? What worked well in their presentation to the elementary students? What could they do differently next time? What do they plan to do next?

  10. Note: the books may become part of the elementary or community library.