Exploring Philanthropic Motivations (8th Grade)

6, 7, 8

Students learn about and discuss the motivations for giving. They apply these motivations to their own lives and to the goal of addressing poverty, hunger, and homelessness.


The learner will:

  • respond to a poem about working for change.
  • give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
  • write a paragraph or poem about personal motivations.
  • Copies of Handout One: Motivations for Giving
  • Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul by Canfield, Hansen and Kirberger
Teacher Preparation 

It is important to be sensitive to the possibility that someone in your class may have some personal experience with homelessness, hunger and poverty.


 Reflect on the difference between doing something kind for someone you know and doing something for the common good. Make a chart of the pros and cons of each.

  • Caldwell, Penny; 1997; “Passing the Dream.” and “Smile” In Canfield, Jack; Hansen, Mark Victor; Kirberger, Kimberly; Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul; pp 123, 272-274 Deerfield Beach, FL. Health Communications, Inc.
  • Prince, Russ A. and Karen M. File. The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001: 0-7879-6057-8.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read aloud the poem “Passing the Dream” by Penny Caldwell from Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. Project the poem for students to read a second time silently or in pairs.

  2. Ask students what they think the poem encourages us to do. Ask them to point out lines that express thoughts and questions they have had. Ask them what it means to work for change. Have them each make a short, personal list of things they want to change.

  3. Review the meaning of common good (what is best for all, not just self-interest). Tell the students that philanthropy is giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good. Ask the students if taking action for the common good is an obligation? Is giving and serving a right or a responsibility? Ask students to debate these questions, giving supporting arguments for their answers. They may come up with a better term than obligation or responsibility.

  4. Lead the discussion to ask, "Why do we give to others? What inspires us to want to help others in need?" Listen to student responses and list some words they come up with on the display board (to make things better, to be kind, because she did something nice for me, to make friends, etc).

  5. Tell the students that some experts have studied this question and come up with seven motivations for giving and serving:

    1. community
    2. religion
    3. good business
    4. social function
    5. giving back
    6. family tradition
    7. selfless concern for others
  6. Display Handout One: Motivations for Giving on the overhead projector or distribute copies. Read through and discuss the seven motivations. Refer to the list students generated about why we give, and match up their ideas with the seven motivations. Look for similarities and differences. Encourage the students to give specific examples of philanthropy and identify the possible motivations (e.g. Boy Scout project is a social function and a family tradition).

  7. Introduce three new terms and challenge the students to use constructive (constructing meaning based on what they already know) and structural (splitting words in to parts to determine meaning) analysis to decode the vocabulary. Use a dictionary or the definitions below to confirm the meanings of the words. Then discuss how these three terms relate to the seven motivations for giving.

    1. enlightened self-interest (to sacrifice a small part of their time and resources to the benefit of the whole, which, in turn, benefits themselves)
    2. altruism (selfless concern for the welfare of others)
    3. egoism (theory of ethics that sets as its goal the benefit, pleasure, or greatest good of oneself alone)
  8. Have the students write a paragraph or poem about their own personal motivations for giving. They should refer to vocabulary or concepts from the seven motivations and the three new terms above. Also, have them use as a reference the personal list of things they want to change sparked by the poem at the beginning of the lesson.

  9. Discuss and come to a decision about what the class will do to contribute to giving or serving for the common good.


Student writing includes articulate explanation of personal motivations and reflects understanding of new concepts.

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.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss why some animals and humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Explain and give examples of enlightened self-interest, egoism, and altruism as they relate to philanthropy.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.