Benjamin Franklin - Philanthropist: Philanthropy Lesson (4th)

3, 4, 5

Students will learn about the contributions made by Benjamin Franklin to the common good. They will categorize his accomplishments in the nonprofit, business and government sectors. They will select a quote from Franklin that they would like to apply to their own lives.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45 to 50 minute class period

The learner will:

  • list Benjamin Franklin’s contributions to the common good.
  • discover and illustrate Franklin’s philosophy about the common good from quotes found in Poor Richard’s Almanack.
  • describe how Franklin’s actions fit in the nonprofit sector, the business sector and the government sector.
  • select and illustrate a Franklin quote that has personal meaning.
  • A teacher created poster with the quote from Ben Franklin, “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves” and an appropriate picture from a magazine or a drawing (for the Anticipatory Set).
  • Student copies of Handout One: Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man (Note: Because of specific vocabulary the reading level may be difficult for some readers. The teacher should read this along with the students and make necessary comments.)
  • Large drawing paper, or construction paper for each student
  • Markers, crayons, paint, old magazines and any other poster making materials
  • Franklin, Benjamin.  Poor Richard’s Almanack.  New York: Peter Pauper Press, 1983.  ISBN 0-88088-918-7


  1. Anticipatory Set:


    Show the students the teacher created poster and ask what they think the quotes mean and who they think is the author of the quote. Tell the children that they are going to learn about the man who wrote this and about his contributions to the United States as well as to society and the common good.

  2. Write the name Benjamin Franklin on the board or chart paper. Ask the students to brainstorm everything they know about Franklin. (Write responses under his name.)

  3. Distribute copies of Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man. Have selected students read the paragraphs aloud. Add to his list of accomplishments as the article is read. Discuss his contributions to the common good as cited in the document.

  4. Put the term nonprofit sector on the board or chart paper. Explain that it is made up of all organizations that are not part of the government or private business. Give examples. Discuss with students, and note on the list, which of Franklin’s accomplishments were in the nonprofit sector, the government sector or the business sector. The list may include such items as: Printer – Business, First Volunteer Fire Brigade – Nonprofit, member of the Continental Congress – Government, postmaster – government, first lending library – nonprofit, founded Pennsylvania Hospital – nonprofit, author – business, etc.

  5. Introduce Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic) by Benjamin Franklin. (If possible have a copy to show the students.) Discuss the quotes from the Almanack that are cited on the handout. Be sure the students understand the meaning and ask them to discuss how they are associated with the common good.

  6. Tell the students that they are going to select one of the quotes they think has meaning for their own lives and create a poster. Show the initial poster used in the Anticipatory Set as an example. Tell the students that they should use pictures, words and designs on their posters to communicate the message of the quote. Distribute the materials and have them make their own posters.

  7. (Optional) Display the completed posters with a heading “Benjamin Franklin – A Philanthropist”.


The posters should be colorful, graphic should represent the quote and the text should be clearly written. The students should have been actively involved in the discussion of Benjamin Franklin.

Cross Curriculum 

Motivate others to take responsibility for the common good by sharing the wisdom of Ben Franklin with others.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe important events in the growth and maturation of the civil society sector in the nation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.