Lucky Money: Penny Drive

3, 4, 5

Students learn vocabulary terms spend, save and donate; define philanthropy; and explore reasons why people choose to donate. This lesson may be used with a collection drive or penny drive to raise money or items to meet a community need.

PrintOne Thirty to forty-five minute class period

The learner will:

  • learn or review the definition of philanthropy and recognize themselves as philanthropists.
  • differentiate between the vocabulary words save, spend and donate.
  • brainstorm reasons to give and options for donating.
  • realize that he or she can make choices with money.
  • reflect on themselves as philanthropists and their contribution to the relief effort.
  • hold a penny drive or collection of goods.
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Student copies of handout: Letter to Families and Care Givers
  • A copy of the book Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chin (see Bibliographical References). This book is available in most school media centers and at the public library.

Have the students share what chores they are responsible for doing around their home.  Record these responses on a display board for all to see.  Have the students look for commonalities and differences.  Lead the students in a discussion that explores why doing these chores might be helpful to everyone in the family; how they contribute to the “common good” of the family.  Now, lead the students in a discussion about their community service  Record their responses next to their “chores” responses on the display board.  Lead the students in a discussion that explores the importance of doing their “chores” as a member of the community; why taking part in the service might be helpful to their family, school, and/or community.


Chin, Karen.  Sam and the Lucky Money.  Lee and Low Books (reprint edition), 1997. ISBN: 1880000539.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the students “If you had $10, what would you do with the money?”Ask students if they ever receive money as gifts for holidays and special occasions or if they earn money or an allowance through doing jobs. Ask students what they usually do with their own money. Tell the students that today they are going to learn about choices children and adults have in making decisions about what to do with their money.

  2. Tell the students that there are three things a person can do with their money. They can spend it, save it or donate it. On three separate pieces of chart paper, list the following words as headings: save, spend and donate. Lead a class discussion generating ideas to define these vocabulary words. (What does it mean to spend money? How do people save money? What does it mean to donate money?) List the children’s response on the appropriate charts.

  3. Following are some definitions for the teacher’s reference only:

    • Save: a. to put by as a store or reserve (part of an allowance each week); to accumulate, hoard or make larger. b. to put aside for a particular purpose or occasion (a favorite shirt for a special day or some candy to share with a friend).
    • Spend: a. to pay out, trade money for goods, use money freely. b. to make use of, employ. c. to exhaust or wear out by use or activity.
    • Donate: a. to make a free gift or a grant of; contribute esp. to a charitable cause (money for a soup kitchen, food pantry, or a faith organization) or toward a public-service institution (a business donated a site for a park).
  4. Set aside the “Save” and “Spend” charts. Tell the class that you are going to teach or remind them of a word related to the word “donate.” Philanthropy is “giving time, treasure and talent, and taking action for the common good.” Write that definition on the chart.Talk about what the students’ treasures might be (money, candy, a special toy, etc.). Tell the students about some local examples of philanthropy: a park donated or maintained by someone, a soup kitchen, art events, etc. Talk about who benefits from philanthropy and the meaning of the core democratic principle of “common good” if the students are not familiar with it.

  5. Read aloud the book Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chin (See Bibliographical References).

  6. Discuss the concepts from the book: Ask the students to recall what choices Sam had for his money. What did Sam finally do with his money? Have the students ever felt the way Sam did in the story when he was angry that he didn’t have more money? Have students ever felt like giving their money to someone who needed it more?

  7. Ask the students to list groups that they are familiar with that ask for donations (Hurricane Disaster Relief, animal shelters, Salvation Army, United Way). Ask the students to think about all the people and/or possessions they have in their homes that are important to them, and to imagine what it might be like to loose people you love or things that are important to you. Tell them that many people just like them experience losses due to some tragedy. Ask the children to reflect about why someone might want to help by sharing or donating money or other goods in response to the need of someone else.

  8. Explain to the students that they have an opportunity to join together as a class and school to donate money (or other items) to a cause.

  9. Tell them that they may bring in coins from home. Talk with the students about where the money might come from. Suggest that they might offer to do jobs for family and friends to earn money, or their families might help them collect money from family members and friends.

  10. Send home a note introducing the project and explaining how you will be collecting money to donate to a charitable cause (See Handout One: Letter to Families and Caregivers).

  11. Ask the students how having other students involved in the collection (cooperation) might enhance the effects of the project.

  12. As the money is collected, have students sort the coins and dollars collected each day and post the results. Students can produce a paper “Chain of Caring” to hang in the classroom or school to tally the donations. Each time the money is counted, students add a link to the chain, one link per dollar, numbering each link so that the last link will indicate the total after each day. The same process may be used if items (rather than money) are collected.

Cross Curriculum 

The class may hold a penny drive to raise money for a chosen cause. To hold the competition, each class or team competes against all others. Each team has a jar in a central location labeled with the team name and the charity they are raising money for. The idea is to earn the most money for your class or grade. In a penny war, teams try to collect the most pennies, and silver coins count against their total. This creates a competition where other teams try to sabotage the other teams by adding silver coins or dollar bills to the competitors' jars. The value of the coins count against the total, so a quarter subtracts 25 points from a jar of pennies. You can have two winners: one winner is the team that has the most points and another winner collects the highest monetary value.

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.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Define philanthropy and charity.
    2. 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. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify why private resources (volunteers and money) are needed.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Set a fund-raising goal and identify sources of private funds.