Michigan History of Philanthropy

6, 7, 8

Students will be introduced to the concept of philanthropy and the history of philanthropic deeds in Michigan's early history.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Sixty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy.
  • trace how philanthropy began in Michigan.
  • relate through his or her own experiences how philanthropy ties to his/her life.
  • Butcher paper
  • Different colors of construction paper
  • Markers, colored pens
  • Michigan History of Philanthropy (Handout One)
Home Connection 

Ask students to share the picture and description they created of philanthropy in their lives with their parent or guardian. Have them discuss how philanthropy has been part of their family's life.


Fugate, Sandy. For the Benefit of All: A History of Philanthropy of Michigan.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 1997. ISBN: 1-891445-00-6.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Explain that the first act of philanthropy in Michigan occurred 13,000 years ago in the area around present day Flint. This area is where the Native Americans lived. Their societies were the first philanthropists that gave of themselves for the common good.

  2. Ask students what the definition of philanthropy is (individuals and organizations providing their time, talent and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world). Explain that the Greek roots of philanthropy translate into English as "love of mankind."

  3. Use Michigan History of Philanthropy (Handout One) to explain the history of philanthropy in Michigan. If you wish, a timeline can be used to display a visual of the events throughout the history lesson. Optional: You can use any pictures of the following to enhance the lesson: Native Americans, one room school houses, soldiers who fought in the Civil War, Sojourner Truth, and maps that show the Erie Canal land around the Great Lakes before Michigan became a state. These pictures can be on a timeline, poster, or made into overhead transparencies and used during the instruction.

  4. To begin the students thinking about philanthropy in their own lives, have students create a picture and/or symbol with a caption of three sentences that represents the first time they can remember witnessing an act of philanthropy. An example might be someone in the family giving to an organization or trying to help someone. Ask for volunteers to share their experience with the class.


Place students into groups of three or four and ask them to share their pictures within their groups. They must decide the order in which their events happened. Then in front of the class the students would form a human timeline based on the time of their event.

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. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.