Motivations for Giving: Penny Drive

9, 10, 11, 12

Explore the local community to identify nonprofit services available. They compare these to the services of business and government to understand the different sectors. They investigate motivations for nonprofits and individual giving.

PrintOne fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify local organizations that provide goods and services to the community.
  • define philanthropy, give examples of it and describe some of the motivations for charitable giving.
  • assess their own motivations for giving.
  • hold a penny drive or collection drive to address an identified need.
  • Motivations for Charitable Giving handout

Have students consider this scenario. During this service project, if you had been given a digital camera with which to take three pictures for a motivational presentation, which three pictures would you have taken, and why?
Photo #1 (Describe the photo) Why would you choose this photo to include in a motivational presentation?

Photo #2 (Describe the photo) Why would you choose this photo to include in a motivational presentation?

Photo #3 (Describe the photo) Why would you choose this photo to include in a motivational presentation?

  • Guidestar Guide Star is a searchable website with a data base that includes financial reports and program summaries on more than 600,000 nonprofit organizations. The financial information is gleaned from IRS Form 990s and additional data is collected from nonprofits themselves.
  • Prince, Russ A. and Karen M. File. The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001: 0-7879-6057-8.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Take a few minutes to have the learners describe some characteristics of their community (i.e. population, economic condition, employment opportunities, housing, schools, etc). Write their comments on the display board and encourage them to keep those community characteristics in mind as they name as many community organizations as they can that provide goods and services necessary for those who live in their community and enrich the life of the community members. (i.e. public schools, grocery store, Red Cross, a local soup kitchen or shelter, gas station, fast food restaurants, hospital, the fire department, health clinic, Secretary of State Office, the Post Office, the Rotary Club, etc.) As these are given, list them on the display as well.

  2. When the learners have finished naming as many ‘helping’ local organizations as they can, go over the list and have the learners ‘help’ you decide if the organization is a “C”-Corporation/Business, “NP”- Nonprofit organization, including both religious and secular), “G”- Government.

  3. Point out to the learners that this list is proof that many ‘helping’ services are not done by the “G”- Government alone. Because the government does not have the funds or the ability to do everything, or chooses not to do everything, there are others who provide goods and services either for profit or not for profit.

  4. Place the term “philanthropy” on the display board. Solicit definitions from the learners. Explain that philanthropy is the giving of time, talent, and treasure for the sake of another or the common good. Philanthropy also refers to voluntary action for the public good. Remind the learners that many of the organizations that provide services for the public are philanthropic. Since nonprofit organizations are not in the business to earn a profit, they have fewer restrictions placed on them from the government than for profit businesses. This allows non-profit organizations more room to be creative and try new ideas to improve social services (i.e. address issues of poverty, environmental stewardship, promote the arts, preserve historical buildings, etc.). In many cases the nonprofit sector is the one that initiates social change.

  5. Have the learners identify ways in which people may be involved in “philanthropic giving.” Examples may include: giving donations to a faith organization, contributing to United Way, donating used clothing, volunteering with the Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, contributing Toys for Tots, collecting pop can tops for the Ronald McDonald House, saving Campbell Soup can labels for the local school, raking leaves/shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, babysitting for someone without pay, etc.

  6. Ask the learners to recall and list ways in which they have been involved in charitable giving through participation in their school.

  7. Once a good list has been generated, ask the learners if this statement is true. “Only the very rich people are able to give.”

  8. To stimulate their thinking further, ask the learners, “Why would anyone want to be a philanthropist, and give their money away?” After fielding a few of their responses, distribute Motivations for Charitable Giving (Handout One).

  9. Talk about these motivations and ask the students to list any additional ones they may think of.

  10. Ask the learners to again read the motivations for charitable giving and circle those reasons that may personally motivation them or their family members to contribute to a charitable cause and/or to the school’s collection drive or penny drive.


The learner’s involvement in the group discussions and the depth of thinking and understanding evident in his/her comments and feedback, provide the evaluation for this lesson.

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 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. Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark HS.3 List examples of gifts, from a variety of foundations, that are of value to the community.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify and describe civil society sector organizations whose purpose is associated with issues relating to "human characteristics of place" nationally and internationally.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.