Funding the Arts

6, 7, 8

Students learn how nonprofit organizations contribute to the common good by supporting the arts. They role-play as members of the board of a foundation focused on the Arts who are making a funding recommendation to bring the Arts to the children of the community.

Focus Question: How does an individual use personal interests and strengths to impact the common good?

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • learn about four nonprofit organizations that donate money for philanthropic use in the Arts.
  • make a decision-making model to decide what fine arts he/she wants to bring to the community.

Student copies of Handout One: Examples of Philanthropy in Supporting the Arts


Give each student 10-12 small sticky notes.  Have the students write a word or phrase on each sticky note that comes to mind as they think about their service. As the students are writing place a four-column grid on the display board and label the columns: Feelings, Activities, Affects/Effects, and Misc. At the end of 2-4 minutes, have the students decide which column their words or phrases best fit and then have them place their sticky notes under the proper heading. When all of the notes have been posted, read the notes under each column to the students. Have them look for similar comments in order to synthesize and condense the number of sticky notes and eliminate duplication. Lead students to draw some conclusions about their experiences based on this activity.



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the students if they have ever heard of: Pew Charitable Trust; MacArthur Foundation; Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Getty Foundation? (These are frequently mentioned on Public television and radio stations). Tell the students that people often feel that it is their civic responsibility to give back to the community. They put some of their money in a trust or foundation that is managed by a board of directors. The four that you mentioned use some or all of their money to support the arts. These are non-profit organizations.

  2. Distribute Handout One and read and discuss the information with the students.

  3. Tell the students that they are going to role –play managing a fund today and that they get to decide what they want to spend the money on, but it must be spent on the arts for the children of the community to enjoy. Help the students understand that the concept of “The Arts” includes visual arts, dance, theater/performance, and music.

  4. Divide the class into groups of four or five students. Tell them that they have $500,000 to spend on the arts for the community. This is the amount that has been budgeted for the trust fund/foundation for this purpose. They will need to decide what they want to spend the money on. They could use the money to pay the local symphony to perform for the community and allow people to come to the concert free. They could bring in an artist (actor, musician, dancer, painter, or sculptor) to perform for kids at local schools.

  5. While working in their groups, they should be able to answer these questions in preparation for their presentation to the chairperson of the board (the teacher/class).

    • What is the need for Arts in the community?
    • What activity would your organization support with the money?
    • Why did you choose this activity for the community?
    • How will this effect the lives of children in the community?
  6. Ask each group to present their ideas to the class.

  7. After the presentations, challenge the students to brainstorm ways that the plans could actually be carried out even though they don’t having the funding. What could they do, or who could they go to, to make it happen?

Cross Curriculum 

Art from the heart: Celebrate students artistic talents and find a way to share these talents with others. Follow your students’ voices to find an organization or group of people who would appreciate a poem, greeting card, or homemade piece of art to brighten their day or let them know someone cares. This may be soldiers, veterans, elderly people in a retirement home, or a local child with a serious illness.

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. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss examples of civil society organizations from a list of categories of organizations.