Students Investigate the History of Philanthropy

9, 10, 11, 12

Students explore the history of philanthropic behavior (sharing, community collaboration, service) in ancient cultures and today, as well as compare themes of love and service in different world religion practices. 

PrintOne hour

Students will be able to 

  • work collectively to explore the role philanthropy has played in history.
  • glean the ocmmonaliites and importance of philanthropy in the historical narrative.
  • Computer lab, Chrome Books, or Smart Phones
  • 4-6 copies each of Group Work handouts 
  • Graphic Organizer handout for all students
  • Golden Rule handout for the groups looking at faith groups
  • philanthropy: the giving of one's time, talent or treasure for the sake of another, or for the common good
  • golden rule: a basic principle that should be followed to ensure success in general or in a particular activity; i.e., treat others how you wish to be treated 
Home Connection 

Students may take the Learning to Give online course, "The History of Philanthropy." The mini-course takes about 45 minutes and includes a quiz and certificate. Users do need to create a Learning to Give account to have access to the mini-course. There is no cost for creating an account, and users' information is private. 


  1. Open up with a brief class discussion. Ask your students, “What is philanthropy”? Once this is established, brainstorm any times in history they feel philanthropy has been part of the story. Simply put, “When have people worked together in history?” (10 minutes)

  2. Once done with the brainstorming portion, read this passage: “In the study of history, one can observe philanthropy embedded in the very nature of humanity. This belief that the world around us can be made better stretches back thousands of years. Philanthropy, from the Greek root meaning "love of mankind," comes naturally to us, and is motivated by a number of different reasons. We will now work in groups to learn about philanthropy throughout time and in different parts of the world.” (2 minutes) 

  3. Students will be divided into groups. This is written for 28 students, but will have to be adjusted based upon the number of students you have in your class. There is a number associate with every task, if you choose to have groups chosen at random. 

    1. Group 1- “The Ancient World” (7 students)
    2. Group 2- “Western Religions” (3 students)
    3. Group 3- “Eastern Religions” (6 students)
    4. Group 4- “American Revolution” (2 students)
    5. Group 5- “Civil Rights Movement” (4 students)
    6. Group 6 –“Women’s Rights Movement” (6 students)
  4. Students will cluster in their respective groups and investigate philanthropy using a combination of videos and readings. Using their research they will answer questions within their groups. (20 minutes)

  5. Ending the small group work, the collective class will come together. Students will be handed a worksheet. One individual from each group will share out their findings from their research and students will add it to the graphic organizer on their worksheet. When all six groups have presented, as a class seek out commonalities. (20 minutes)

  6. To end class, students will engage in a reflective writing piece on the worksheet. This worksheet will be turned in at the end of class and serve as the day’s assessment (8 minutes)

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
      3. Benchmark HS.5 Describe how women and minority groups have used the civil society sector as an alternative power structure.