Benjamin Franklin

3, 4, 5

Benjamin Franklin's work was in service to making a better world, and he influenced the nonprofit sector. His book, Poor Richards Almanack, makes connections to the common good through personal virtue and actions. The participants choose quotes to create posters that communicate their commitment to the common good.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session
  • Identify Benjamin Franklin's contributions to the common good.
  • Describe how Franklin's writing and actions helped to promote the independent (or nonprofit) sector.
  • Share an inspirational quote to influence others to act for the good of all. 
  • copies of Profiles in Caring: Benjamin Franklin (handout below)
  • copy of Poor Richard's Almanack by Benjamin Franklin 
Home Connection 

Letter to families:  We are exploring the work of the nonprofit sector promoting the "Common Good," starting with the Mayflower Compact. At home and with grandparents and neighbors, discuss ways in which we all contribute to the "Common Good" at home as well as in the community. We will be making posters with a quote from Benjamin Franklin to encourage others to take personal responsibility for the good of all. 

  • Franklin, Benjamin. Poor Richard's Almanack. New York: Peter Pauper Press, 1983. ISBN 0-88088-918-7
  • Profiles in Caring: Benjamin Franklin Website


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Print a "poster" with the Franklin quote "What you seem to be, be really." Discuss what it means to participants. This quote and others come from Benjamin Franklin who made many contributions to the United States as well as to society and the common good.

  2. Distribute the handout of Profiles in Caring: Benjamin Franklin. Take turns reading the paragraphs aloud. Make a list of Benjamin Franklin's contributions from this and what the group knows already about him.

  3. Write the term independent sector (nonprofit sector) on a chart or board. Explain that the independent sector is made up of organizations that are not part of the government or private business. Give examples such as The Salvation Army, Feeding America, The Red Cross, and Special Olympics. each of these organizations has a mission, and their work is not to make money for the "owners." 

    Look over the list of Franklin's contributions and star the ones that are related to the common good and the independent sector.

  4. Introduce Poor Richard's Almanack by Benjamin Franklin. (If possible have online access to the text.) Ask participants to find quotes that relate to the common good. Discuss what Franklin feels is our duty to the common good. Discuss whether they agree with this and why.

  5. Review the list of Core Democratic Values from the previous lesson. Look for similiarities between Poor Richard's Almanck quotes and the Core Democratic Values.

  6. One thing we can all give or do to make a better work is take personal responsibility for the good of all. For example, we can cover our sneezes so others don't get sick. We can take care of a garden or pick up trash to care for the land we all share.

    Each participant will choose one quote from Poor Richard's Almanck that they would like to follow and encourage others to follow. They make a poster or meme, attractively displaying the quote. They use pictures, words and designs in their posters/memes to communicate meaning. Discuss where they will share their message and predict its impact. 

  7. When people take generous action, they are acting within the independent sector, just like nonprofit organizations. Just like a nonprofit organization has a mission (e.g., to collect unused food and distribute it to people who need it), we can have a mission with our quotes. 

    Participants write a mission statement, describing what they are doing with their quote that impacts the good of all.  For example, "My mission is to influence the actions of the people at my school to stop and think before they say something unkind." 

Cross Curriculum 

Students will create posters which reflect Benjamin Franklin's philosophy about the common good. To share their knowledge about the common good, students will hang selected posters in the school or other sites. Suggestions may include nursing homes, hospitals, other schools, etc.

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.