What Is a Philanthropist?

K, 1, 2

This lesson introduces young people to the concept of philanthropy as giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good. They learn that even young people can be philanthropists. The following lessons lead young people to plan a fundraiser. 

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

Define philanthropy as giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good and recognize their own ability to make a difference

  • A copy of the book, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts
  • Chart paper and markers

Roberts, Justin, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Tell the young people "Today we are going to learn a really big word. It’s a word WAY bigger than a first grade word, way bigger than a second grade word, maybe even bigger than a grown-up word." 

  2. Write the word PHILANTHROPIST on chart paper. Have the children repeat the word several times together. This optional "Philanthropy Cheer" activity plays with the big word (and breaks the word into beginning, middle, and end).

    Introduce the essential question, "What is a philanthropist?"

    Show them a picture of a big building from your area with the name on it of the donor/philanthropist who funded it. Talk about why people give money to benefit the community or to support research or a cause.

    Tell them that philanthropists don't start by donating money in big and small amounts. They start out by doing small things with their time or talent, and anyone can act for the good of the community. For example, when you visit a senior home, you are using your time for the common good; you are being a philanthropist. When you stay after class to help clean up, you are doing something with your time for the good of the classroom community; you are a philanthropist.

  3. Show the cover of the book, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, by Justin Roberts.  Tell them that the story is about a philanthropist. Tell them to "Pay close attention and see if you can spot a philanthropist in our story." Maybe they will see themselves represented in the story.

    After reading, talk about the children's actions that make the school and world a better place. Read a discussion about what a philanthropist is, including "someone who gives time, talent, or treasure for the common good." Tell the children they are philanthropists when they act for good. Write on a chart their suggestions for kind things people can do for others (or animals or the world). Some ideas may come from the book. The chart can remain on display for them to come back to or add to as needed.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.