Philanthropy and Philanthropists' Qualities

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners will understand the meaning of the term "philanthropy" and the qualities that philanthropists share, especially good character and personal virtue.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define and use the vocabulary of philanthropy.
  • list and describe how three volunteer groups act for the common good.
  • summarize how five individuals in United States history demonstrated good character and personal virtue.
  • Philanthropic Terms (Attachment One)
  • Five local telephone books · United States History texts
  • Philanthropy Is…K-12 Philanthropy video


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Write the term "philanthropy" on the board. Have the learners write down what they think the word means. Give them about two minutes to write something down, and then start writing possible answers on the board.

  2. Optional: Show segment one of the video Philanthropy Is…where people try to guess the meaning of philanthropy.

  3. Use the following as a definition of philanthropy: the giving of one's time, talent, or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good. This discussion and video should last about 10-15 minutes.

  4. Give students Philanthropic Terms (see Attachment One). Divide the class into five groups and assign two words to each group. They are to discuss the words quietly among themselves, and think of a way they can portray the terms so others can guess the words they are trying to act out - Philanthropy Charades! Rotate among the groups until all words are portrayed. Ask students what all of these words have in common. Point out that these are personal qualities that most philanthropists possess. ·

  5. Focusing on the term common good, have the students stay in their groups and brainstorm all of the volunteer agencies they know that act for the common good. After they have brainstormed, hand each group a local telephone book. Ask the learners to look in the Yellow Pages under Human Services and Social Services to see if the volunteer agencies that they listed on their papers are in their local area. They should list at least five agencies and be able to tell if they are in the local area.

  6. Have the learners write down the names of the agencies and have each group share two agencies with the rest of the class. · Have the learners remain in their groups and get out their United States History books. Focusing on the terms personal virtue and character, have them scan through their books and locate a person in history that they feel had excellent character and virtue. Each of them is to come up with at least one person and write one or two sentences of support for their candidate. Since no two persons in the class can have the same person, it is better to locate several people in case someone else listed the same person. Have each student name their historical person to make sure that there are no matches. Discuss whether or not we can call these famous people philanthropists.


Completion of the group activity and selection of a historical figure showing excellent character and virtue may be used as an assessment. Understanding of the terms will be assessed at the end of the unit.

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.