Making Good Money Choices (9-12)

9, 10, 11, 12

Students learn economics and philanthropy vocabulary by playing an interactive game, Philanthropy EconAround Bingo. Students will use an economic decision-making model to decide where to donate money they have collected.  They will evaluate what is most important to them (develop criteria for giving) and list possible alternatives for donating the money.  Based on this economic decision-making process, the class will come to consensus on how to make a reasoned choice about using their money. They will learn the basics of how nonprofit/civil society organizations are operated and simulate operating one by planning a budget.
Adapt this lesson, and all lessons in this unit, as needed for student level. Specific activities can be omitted or enhanced to meet learner needs.

Philanthropy EconoAround Bingo is an optional activity usually requiring 30-45 minutes the first time it is played.  It is to teach or reinforcement basic economics and philanthropy vocabulary. It can be played periodically to reinforce vocabulary and requires much less time in succeeding playing sessions.

PrintThree Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • review and learn new economic and philanthropy vocabulary words using a game
  • use an economic decision-making model
  • define how choices can affect their own well-being and that of the community.
  • research a nonprofit organization.
  • review a nonprofit/civil society organization’s description and budget information.
  • complete budget revenue and expenses worksheets for a nonprofit
  • Philanthropy EconAround Bingo game (A Philanthropy EconAround Bingo blank bingo sheet, found with the game, will need to be duplicated for each student)

Teacher note: Philanthropy EconAround Bingo can be played in class without using the Bingo portion. Allow 30-45 minutes playing time for first time, 15-20 minutes for succeeding rounds to reinforce vocabulary.

  • Penny or small stone and a wide pan or bowl of water
  • Handout One: Philanthropy EconAround Bingo
  • Decision-Making Model Grid (Handout Two: Economic Decision-Making Model)
Home Connection 

Interactive Family/ Student Homework: Optional: Copy the completed decision-making grid from the classroom discussion. Send a copy home with students along with a blank decision-making grid for the family to use. Request that family members ask their child about the process used in class and/or show their child how they use or can use the process to help with a current economic decision being made in their family.



  1. Day One: Philanthropy EconAround Bingo Anticipatory Set: Introduce Philanthropy EconAround Bingo by telling students they will be playing a fun and interactive game in class today to review and learn new economics and philanthropy vocabulary.

  2. Use the materials in Handout One: Philanthropy EconAround Bingo to teach students how to play the game. Play it at least one time through.

  3. Day Two: Using the Economic Decision-Making Model

    Teacher Note: Prior to class arrange for a small team of students to count the money in the jar and be ready to report to the class the total amount raised thus far. Use this report to provide further incentive for the class goal of contributing to a charity/nonprofit.

    Prior to class arrange for a small team of students to count the money in the jar and be ready to report to the class the total amount raised thus far. Use this report to provide further incentive for the class goal of contributing to a charity/nonprofit.

    Anticipatory Set: Introduce the word charity by writing it in a display area and explaining that charity is “money or other help given to aid those individuals or groups who are in need.” Ask students for some examples of charities in the community. Tell the students that today they will come to a consensus about how the money they are collecting will be spent or donated for charity. Talk about how much money has been collected so far. Use a penny or appropriate small stone, and bowl of water to demonstrate the ripple effect, how the economic decision they make as a class will have a ripple effect on the members of the class, the people who receive the gift, and probably others in the community.

  4. Review (from Lessons One and Two) why acting philanthropically is for the common good.

  5. Tell the students that you are going to show them how to make a logical, fair, and intelligent decision using an economic decision-making model.

  6. Explain that once students know how to use the model, they can use it throughout their lives to make good economic decisions when it comes to deciding how to use money, time, or talents. Today, the class will be using the Economic Decision-Making Model to make a wise decision about the best use for the money collected to donate to a charity.

  7. Use a display area to explain the five steps of good decision making:

    1. Determine the decision to be made
    2. Brainstorm several action ideas or alternatives
    3. Determine the criteria important in making the decision
    4. Evaluate the good and the bad points of each alternative in light of the criteria
    5. Decide!
  8. Explain to students that criteria are those things we think are important when deciding what to do. For instance, wanting food to taste good, wanting food to be healthy for us, wanting food to be easy to fix, are all criteria we could use in deciding what to eat!

  9. Draw a decision-making grid on a display area (see Handout Two: Economic Decision-Making Model).

  10. Remind students of the results of the opinion poll taken as part of Lesson One, Day Three - discussion of their Homework.

  11. Transfer the results of the opinion poll to the left column of the Economic Decision Making Model grid. Ask if students can name local nonprofits for each of the types chosen by the class in the opinion poll. If so, write the names of these in the boxes also.

  12. Discuss some issues that could be considered as they evaluate their choices:

    • How can we use limited resources to the best advantage?
    • What is a need in the local community?
    • What is a community?
    • What things, what priorities (criteria) are important to the class when making a donation to benefit the common good?
    • Explain that there needs to be criteria, (priorities that are important to the class as they consider each alternative). It must be a decision that as many of the class as possible can support.
    • Fill in the top row of the decision making model with criteria important to the students.Try to arrive at least four meaningful and authentic criteria so students can see the benefits of the economic decision making model. (It may be helpful to use a question format on the grid itself) Some possible criteria include:
      1. Will this meet a community need and/or promote the common good?
      2. Will our donation benefit people (animals, children, the environment, or other class interest)?
      3. Is it a local charity?
      4. How many people will be affected by our donation (estimate)?
      5. Is there a chance to work further with this nonprofit?
    • Evaluate each alternative with the class, one criteria at a time. Record hand votes and tallies as needed after reviewing each criterion for a nonprofit under consideration. (For example, if the first action idea is to give to a food bank, ask about each of the criteria questions across the top of the grid and count the number of students who respond “yes” to each.) Write that number in the appropriate box.If not counting exact tallies, reach a class consensus for what to write in each cell going across the grid from left to right.
    • Evaluate the number of positive responses for each criterion chosen corresponding to each alternative.Compare and discuss the results. If some criterion is more important than others, give them more “weight” when calculating the impact, such as doubling the number in a given cell if the class agrees that the criterion should be double weighted.
    • Achieve a consensus class decision based on the highest number of positive responses received by an action idea/alternative, considering the relative importance of certain criteria over others in the process. The alternative with the highest number of total votes should be the first choice. Determine which nonprofit in the “winning” category will be the recipient of the donation. This may be done by simple discussion or going through the decision making process again with the names of specific nonprofits for the chosen types as alternatives.
    • Explain that the opportunity cost for choosing the first choice is not being able to donate to the second best choice on the list of alternatives.
    • Debrief after you make a decision using these questions as a guide:
    1. Is this decision making model a good idea? Why/Why not?
    2. Can you think of other decisions where this model could be used?
    3. What could have been done better in this decision making process?

    Day Three: Nonprofit Basics

    Anticipatory Set: Write the words “Nonprofit/Civil Society”, “For profit/Business”, Government, and Households for display. Ask students: What do these four terms have in common? (They represent the four sectors of the economy and are interdependent, accept all reasonable answers.) How are these four sectors different from each other? (Each has a unique mission or role in society and the economy, accept all reasonable answers.) Explain that in today’s lesson, students will learn the basics of how nonprofit/civil society organizations are operated and they will have a chance to practice operating one.

  13. Hand out Handout Three: Running a Nonprofit. Students may be assigned the entire reading with possible note taking, or the reading can be “jigsawed” with key points reported by groups. If using this option, groups can be assigned one or more of the following topics from the reading and given 5-10 minutes to read and prepare brief presentations to the class.

    • Programming
    • Budgeting
    • Support Sources
    • Raising Revenue
    • Hand out Handout Four:Planning a Nonprofit Budgetand review contents with students, especially the basic descriptions of the four nonprofits.
    • Explain that these four sample nonprofits are based on real nonprofit organizations. Ask students to review the nonprofit descriptions and select the one they would like to work on in a group activity to prepare budget worksheets for that nonprofit. (More than one group may be assigned to a particular nonprofit)
    • Arrange groups and review group instructions at the top of Handout Four: Planning a Nonprofit Budget. Allow 10-15 minutes for group work.
    • Check group budgets and calculations and explain corrections as necessary. See Handout Five: Answer Key for each nonprofit organization. (Calculators may be helpful for groups and for teacher to save time and check accuracy)
    • Ask groups to report their findings, including brief descriptions of key revenues and expenses for their particular nonprofit.
    • Debriefing/reflection questions:
  14. What did you notice about the budget process for nonprofits?

  15. How important is the knowledge of budgets? (average person, employee of a nonprofit, leader of a nonprofit)

  16. How important are nonprofit/civil society organizations when you consider either economy or society as a whole?

  17. Will anyone in class think differently about nonprofits after today? If so, how?


Teacher observation of student participation in the economic decision-making process and in the group work with nonprofit budgets

Cross Curriculum 

Students will identify community needs and propose ideas about how to respond to them with donated monies. They will come to consensus and choose the best alternative that will advance the common good, given their criteria for giving. At the end of the unit, the students will donate the money to the selected cause or charity.

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 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
    3. 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.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Explain charitable giving in economic terms.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> related to philanthropic giving by individuals and corporations.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Set a fund-raising goal and identify sources of private funds.