History of Philanthropy

6, 7, 8

Groups will collaborate to identify significant events and organizations in American history that involve philanthropy and share their findings with other student groups within the school.

Lesson Rating 
PrintSix Forty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify major events in American philanthropic history.
  • research and present information on a major event in American history which furthered the development of philanthropy.
  • Student copies of Roots of Philanthropy in the United States ( Attachment One )
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Masking tape
  • Internet or library access for research
  • Journal
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: After the first day, the learner will follow up the discussion with his/her parents from Lesson One: What Is Service Learning? This follow-up should include a discussion of what the family can do together that fits the theme of philanthropy.


Burlingame, Dwight. “History of Philanthropy.” The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, 2003. http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students to recall their earliest memory of philanthropy. It can be something that they observed, did for someone else, or were recipients. Ask them to approximate the year in which the memory occurred (giving money to Salvation Army bell ringers as a 4 year old in 20__). As a group, silently get in chronological order of the year the memory occurred. The learners will need to use other modes of communication to achieve this. Once the students are ready, ask each person to share his/her earliest memory. Note the year and age of earliest memory.

    Day One:

  2. State that the United States has a “memory” or history of philanthropy. Then have the group brainstorm a list of significant organizations or events in America that have shaped philanthropy in America. Record the events on chart paper. Try to apply years or time periods, if possible.

  3. Distribute student copies of Roots of Philanthropy in the United States (handout). Check for correlations between the learner-generated timeline and the general timeline. Decide on one organization or significant event in philanthropic history that is of interest to the entire group for research purposes.

  4. Days Two through Four

  5. As a group, research the topic chosen. Look for specific information such as:

    • why this event was significant;
    • the situations and background information that led to the specific event or organization;
    • the effect of the event or organization on American philanthropy;
    • individual(s) who played a significant role as well as the year(s) of the event or organization;
    • other relevant information.
  6. Students prepare a five-minute presentation of the information researched. All group members must play an active role in the presentation. A visual on chart paper including the date(s) of the event or inception of the organization across the top is required. The more creative and interactive, the more interesting the presentation will be for the learner.

  7. Days Five and Six:

  8. Gather all advisory groups together. Ask each group to present its information. As groups are presenting, every learner is to write two main ideas from each presentation. At the end of each presentation, provide an opportunity for students to ask questions of the presenters.

  9. Post visuals in chronological order around the room after the presentations. If possible, after all presentations are completed, post them on a bulletin board in the hallway during study of the entire unit.


The journal entries recording two main ideas from each presentation will assess learning in this lesson.

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the philanthropic ideas embedded in a nation's founding documents.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Describe how the founding documents and fundamental democratic principles encourage citizens to act philanthropically.