Makes Cents to Me: Penny Drive

3, 4, 5
This lesson will introduce learners to the concept that nonprofit organizations need monetary resources in order help others. It will help students explore why people, including themselves, might donate money to these organizations. This lesson may be used with a penny drive or penny war to raise money for a charity.
Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Thirty to forty minute class period

The learner will:

  • develop an understanding of why nonprofit organizations need to raise money (treasure).
  • explore ideas about why people donate to nonprofit organizations.
  • hold a penny drive.
  • chart paper for recording answers from class lesson.
  • stories of giving (personal or from Internet search) Giraffe Heroes [] or I Like Giving []

Reflection plays a very important role in promoting student learning. The following suggested activities are ways to help students reflect on their learning after they have participated in a service event.  Choose one or more of the activities most appropriate to the service event and your students.

ACTIVITY ONE: Have the students write a paragraph about their personal experience using this prompt, or something similar:  “This service project was like a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk because…”

ACTIVITY TWO: Toss a tennis ball to a student and have that student use one word or phrase to describe or summarize how they felt about their service-learning experience.  After a student has had an opportunity to respond, have him or her toss the ball back to you.  Continue the process until everyone has had an opportunity to respond.  As always, allowing a student to pass (not respond) is permissible.

ACTIVITY THREE: Give each student an 8 ½” x 11”-sheet of multi-colored construction paper, a pair of scissors, a glue stick/paste and a variety of old magazines and newspapers.  Instruct them that they will have a certain amount of time to go through these magazines and newspapers to cut out pictures and/or words that could be used to describe their involvement in the recent event.  Once they have cut out pictures or words, instruct them to place their name somewhere on the construction paper and then glue the pictures and/or words they cut out to the construction paper being careful not to cover up their name.  Display these in the classroom. If time allows, have each student share the contents of his or her collage with the rest of the class.

ACTIVITY FOUR: Provide each student with a sheet of construction paper, preferably of five different colors.  Have the students cut from their sheet of construction paper, five different geometric shapes; namely, a square, a circle, a triangle, a cone, and a rectangle.  Provide each student with a wire coat hanger and pieces of string.  Collect all the squares in one pile; all the triangles in another, and so forth.  Invite the students to select one of each shape from the piles.  On the circle have them draw a face showing how they felt doing the service project on the reverse side have them write a word or two describing how they felt during the service-learning activity.  On one side of a triangle have them draw a picture of what they did during the event and on the reverse side write a brief description.  On the square, have them list what they think were the affects/effects of the service project. On the rectangle have them draw another act of giving or caring they would like to do and on the reverse side ask them to describe what they drew. On the cone have them place their name. Then demonstrate how the students are to attach the strings to each shape and tie the shapes onto the coat hanger to make a mobile.  Display the mobiles in the room. If time permits, ask for student volunteers to explain their mobile.



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Give each student a 3X5 card. Ask them to write down one thing they would really like to have or buy. Using a prearranged grouping system (teacher assigned, counting off, etc.), divide them into small groups. Tell them that they will have 5 minutes (set a timer) to share their item. Then ask them to brainstorm and record on the board or chart paper ways that they can get the things that they wanted (ask family members for the money, ask someone for a loan, ask a friend, saved allowance/gift money, until they had the money to buy what the wanted.)

  2. As a whole group, remind learners that philanthropy is the giving of one’s time, talent and treasure, or taking action for the common good. Tell the students that people sometimes create organizations that are philanthropic - intended to help those in need.

  3. Tell the students that nonprofit organizations supply goods and services to people that have needs. Usually because of some tragedy, these people cannot get the things that they need for themselves, and governments cannot or do not supply the items.

  4. Ask: Why do nonprofits need financial support? (To buy things that other people might need and can’t get any other way.) Who is responsible for giving that support? (People in the community.)

  5. Tell them that for this lesson the class is going to focus on philanthropy through giving treasure (money).

  6. Post the lists the small groups created and ask a representative from each group to share their list.

  7. Ask the learners if any of the ideas on their lists could also be ways that philanthropic organizations might get money or other resources to help people. Circle those ideas on the students’ lists (if any) that might also work for nonprofit organizations. Then ask the students to add any other ideas they might have for fundraising by nonprofits.

  8. Ask: How do you think nonprofit organizations use the money they raise? (To pay people to work for the organization, advertise the organization, buy things to sell so that they can make a profit to give back to the organization.)

  9. Ask the learners: Why do you think people give money (donate) to a philanthropic organization?

  10. If Internet access is available, take the students to the following website and read with them the stories of several of the philanthropic children. Discuss with the students what have motivated these children to act philanthropically. 

  11. Guide student to the idea that in a civil society it is our civic responsibility to help those in need.

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 billsto 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. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.1 Name examples of civil society organizations in the community.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify and describe how civil society organizations help the community.