Benjamin Franklin, Philanthropist

3, 4, 5

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

PrintOne 45-Minute Session
  • select and illustrate a Franklin quote that has personal meaning.
  • Combine the following quote from Ben Franklin with an image to serve as a motivation: “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
  • individual copies of the handout below: Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man 
  • Franklin, Benjamin.  Poor Richard’s Almanack.  New York: Peter Pauper Press, 1983.  ISBN 0-88088-918-7


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Show and discuss the picture-quote printout (see teacher prep above). Tell the young people that they are going to learn about Benjamin Franklin and his contributions to the United States as well as to civil society and the common good.

  2. Distribute copies of Benjamin Franklin: Profile of a Caring Man. Read the paragraphs aloud in turn. Brainstorm a list of accomplishments as the article is read. Discuss his contributions to the common good as cited in the document.

  3. On a chart, write the term nonprofit sector. Explain that the nonprofit sector is made up of all organizations that are not part of the government or private business. Give examples, such as a food pantry, a museum, a local symphony, or an environmental group. Look at the list you created of Franklin’s accomplishments and note which 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.

  4. Introduce Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic) by Benjamin Franklin. (If possible have a copy to show the youth.) Discuss the quotes from the Almanack that are cited on the handout. Discuss the meaning and determine how each is associated with the common good.

  5. As an activity, each youth selects 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. They may 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.

  6. Display the completed posters with a heading “Benjamin Franklin – A Philanthropist”.

Cross Curriculum 

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

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.