Banking on the Future: Penny Drive

3, 4, 5

This lesson explores concepts related to money. They read a fun  picture book about spending and learn about saving. Learners discover that individuals and organizations give special gifts of money called endowments to nonprofit organizations and foundations. In this way the work of the organization can continue forever.


Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45 minute class period (The Anticipatory Set may be done separately as part of a regular read-aloud time.)

The learner will:

  • explain the need to invest treasures for future use.
  • identify a cause in the community that needs to be addressed.
  • hold a penny drive.
  • Copy of Judith Viorst’s, Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday. (Last Sunday, his grandparents gave Alexander a dollar. He was rich! There are so many things that he could buy, if he saves enough money. But, somehow, the money began to disappear.)
  • A shoe box
  • Chart paper

Have each student write a paragraph about his or her personal experience using one of these prompt analogies:
This service project was:
Like baking a cake, because…
Like hugging a friend, because…a
Like reading a good book, because…
Like running a race, because...
Like planting a flower, because...




  1. Anticipatory Set:

    What do you do when you are given money? Do you spend or save it? If you save it, where do you put it? What does it mean to “save for a rainy day?” How can you save for a rainy day (emergency)? Display the shoebox. If you were to place all of your money in a shoebox, would that be a good idea? Why or why not? Discuss some other possible options for using the money. Read aloud Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday. Ask, “Did Alexander make wise choices with his money? What else could Alexander have done with his money?” Record students’ responses on chalkboard or chart paper.

  2. Explain that the children will have an opportunity to participate in the Penny Drive, and that the money collected will be donated to a nonprofit organization. They will be learning some ways a nonprofit organization might make the best use of that money.

  3. Explain/review and briefly discuss the following definitions.

    • Nonprofit Organization - an organization whose income is not used for the benefit of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company. The money is used to further the mission of the organization.
    • Endowment - funds intended to be kept permanently and invested to provide income for continued support of an organization.
    • Invest - to make choices with money that will result in income. (bank accounts, stocks, real estate, bonds); using money to make money.
    • Opportunity Cost - the cost of passing up the next best choice when making a decision.
  4. Tell students that when nonprofit organizations are given money, they sometimes invest some of the money as an endowment, spending only the return on the investment not the original gift(s). Explain that the nonprofit places the money into a account that uses the money in a way that will produce more money through investing in stocks, bonds, etc. instead of putting the money into a box or into a piggy bank. They do this so the work or programs that are started today can continue in the future to benefit others. The money that Alexander received was a gift that could be considered an endowment (funds intended to be kept permanently and invested to provide income for continued support of an organization). His choice to spend or save his money could be considered an example of opportunity cost. Instead he decided to spend his treasure (money) in several ways.

  5. Ask the learners if they have watched any shows on Public Broadcasting Television (PBS – Name your local station)? Give them a few minutes to respond and solicit the names of some of those shows that they might watch.

  6. Tell the learners that programs that they watch on regular television and cable networks have to be purchased. They are paid for through the selling of advertisements - commercials. Tell the learners the shows that they watch on all other networks are paid for. Allow time for brief discussion about advertisements.

  7. Tell learners that programs that they watch on PBS/local station are paid for through money given as donations and some of those donations are endowments. One endowment that they might be familiar with is the National Endowment for the Arts (See Biographical References). This organization funds programs that are shown on Public Broadcasting Stations. Individual people also donate money to the Public Broadcasting station to help pay for shows that they particularly enjoy. PBS receives individual donations and gifts of endowments because it is a service that benefits the common good. Endowments allow a nonprofit to continue serving the common good by having a funding supply in perpetuity - forever. Ask: Why might this be important?

  8. Suggest to the students that when they watch programs on PBS to take special notice of the funders mentioned at the beginning and end of the program and especially listen for the word “endowment.”

  9. Ask: Why might they want to participate in the Penny Drive, giving a gift of money that may be used for the mission of the organization, or may go towards an endowment for an organization?

Cross Curriculum 

The class may hold a penny drive to raise money for a chosen cause. To hold the competition, each class or team competes against all others. Each team has a jar in a central location labeled with the team name and the charity they are raising money for. The idea is to earn the most money for your class or grade. In a penny war, teams try to collect the most pennies, and silver coins count against their total. This creates a competition where other teams try to sabotage the other teams by adding silver coins or dollar bills to the competitors' jars. The value of the coins count against the total, so a quarter subtracts 25 points from a jar of pennies. You can have two winners: one winner is the team that has the most points and another winner collects the highest monetary value.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Define philanthropy and charity.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
    3. Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark E.4 Describe the concept of saving for the future.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.2 Describe how charitable giving may have an economic dimension.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify and describe how civil society organizations help the community.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify why people practice philanthropy related to their own self-interest.