What Is Philanthropy?

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Definition of Philanthropy
Video Clip and Discussion Guide: While philanthropy is deeply embedded in U.S. society and practice, many people do not know the word or understand its full meaning. This one-minute video clip has some humorous definitions along with definitions from philanthropy scholars. Philanthropy is giving time, talent, or treasure and taking private action for the common good. Share this video to start a discussion of the many forms of philanthropy in practice.

Photo credit: Group04-013 by Visions Service Adventures is licensed under CC by 2.0

Anticipatory Set

Ask the participants, "What is the definition of philanthropy?" Listen to their reponses without defining it yourself. Tell them that many people do not know the word philanthropy, but most people practice philanthropy as part of their daily lives. Watch the video to get the definition from people on the street and experts. 



  1. What is the definition of philanthropy? (Come to a concensus on a definition.)
  2. Why do you think so many people misunderstand the concept of philanthropy when it is such a major part of our culture?
  3. How do people act after an act of terror or a natural disaster? (They seek ways to help, such as by volunteering or giving money.)
  4. Why do you think our natural reaction is to be philanthropic? Where does that instinct come from?

Follow-up Activity

  1. Conduct a survey or interview people around school and the community to ask about their understanding or involvement as philanthropists. 
  2. Decide what you want to learn about people's understanding, attitudes, motivations, or practices. What will you do with the information once collected?
  3. Design survey or interview questions.
  4. Determine how you will get a representational sample.
  5. Decide who will do what and when.
  6. Do it.