Meaning of Philanthropy (The)

6, 7, 8

Students will understand the concept of philanthropy and be aware of its presence in the community. While written for a Christian Middle School, the lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo to Three Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • explain in writing the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of philanthropy.
  • list three groups that benefit from philanthropy.
  • list three ways philanthropy can be practiced.
  • state three examples of philanthropy.
  • state his/her opinion on why philanthropy is important.
  • analyze mission statements and state at least two ways each one supports philanthropy.
  • Newspaper articles that deal with the topic of philanthropy for each student
  • News Articles on Philanthropy Chart handout
  • Newsprint or other paper for recording the information
  • “I Have Helped Others…” Chart handout
  • “Others Have Helped Me…” Chart handout
  • Copy of your school’s mission statement or Mission Statements (handout)
  • Philanthropy in the News Project Requirements and Rubric handout
  • Philanthropy in the News Final Assessment Rubric handout
  • Bentley, Richard J. and Luana G. Nissan. The Roots of Giving and Serving: A Literature Review Studying How School-Age Children Learn the Philanthropic Tradition. Indianapolis: Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, 1996.
  • Bertolet, Debbi and Barbara Jacquette. Youth In Philanthropy Project. Phoenix: Arizona GIVES/Arizona Community Foundation, 1994.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Ask students to define the word “philanthropy” and write their definitions on a sheet of newsprint entitled “Philanthropy.” Tell the students that today they will discover what the word philanthropy means by reading stories about philanthropy. They will also discover the "who,” "what,” "where,” "when,” "why” and "how” of philanthropy.

  2. Consider showing Salvatore Alaimo's film 'What is Philanthropy' to aid in understanding and discussion. 

  3. Divide students into groups of four. Give each student News Articles on Philanthropy Chart (handout) and a newspaper article. Have each group record the information related to their articles on their charts.

  4. Ask each group to report on one or two of their articles for the class. While the students are reporting, the teacher should record a summary on class charts.

  5. After summarizing ten or twelve articles, lead a class discussion to help the students infer meaning from the information on the charts. Ask, “What conclusions can you reach by looking at the information under ‘Who is being helped’?” Do this for each column from the chart. Lead students from talking about specific examples to more generic conclusions.

  6. Review the definitions for philanthropy that the class gave at the beginning of the lesson. Discuss what should be added or subtracted from the original definition. Write a new class definition on the same sheet of newsprint.

  7. Home Assignment: Give each student a copy of the charts “I Have Helped Others…” and Others Have Helped Me (see handouts). Ask students to fill in each chart as best as they can. They may have help from family members to recall appropriate experiences, if necessary.

  8. Display a copy of the school’s mission statement or a mission statement from a philanthropic organization on the overhead projector (see handout). Discuss at least two ways the statement supports philanthropy.

  9. To personalize philanthropy for each student, begin a class review of the two charts students worked on at home. Go around the room asking every student to choose one item to report from either chart. Ask students what they can conclude from the examples they have just heard.

    Possible answers may include: “philanthropy is in some way a part of their lives; they need to be more involved in philanthropy; they can find examples in their lives of people helping people, animals or the environment by giving of their money, time or talents.”


The students will write a one page, approximately 250-word explanation of philanthropy. This paper should include the following information:

  • three groups who benefit from philanthropy
  • who can do philanthropy
  • what kinds of needs are met
  • where philanthropy takes place
  • when it takes place
  • why it is necessary
  • three ways it can be accomplished
  • three examples of philanthropy
  • the student’s opinion of why philanthropy is important.
  • The students will analyze a mission statement and state two ways it supports philanthropy.

Use a rubric to evaluate the student's explanation of philanthropy and his/her ability to analyze a mission statement (see handout).

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
    2. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss the function of family traditions and role modeling in teaching about sharing and giving.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.