Philanthropy and Citizenship—Hand in Hand

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners will be introduced to the concept of philanthropy, evaluate the role of philanthropy in the smooth functioning of government, and describe the role of families in shaping a democratic society.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy.
  • identify acts of philanthropy in everyday life.
  • evaluate how effectively the government would function without the help of volunteers.
  • Video segment, Philanthropy Is… (see Bibliography)
  • Philanthropy in Government Rap Song (handout)
  • Roles in Society Handout for student groups (handout)
  • Rap Song Rubric (handout)
  • Venn diagram (handout)
  • construction paper
  • markers

philanthropy: The giving of one's time, talent or treasure or taking voluntary action for the common good

citizenship: the state of being an inhabitant or member of a community; includes entitlement to rights and responsibility to the common good

  • Ellis, Susan J. and Katherine H. Noyes. By the People. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1990.
  • “Philanthropy Is . . .” Video [] 


  1. Anticipatory Set: Write "philanthropy" on the board. Show the video "Philanthropy is..." (7:20). (Teacher may choose to show only a short portion.) Ask students to pronounce and define the word on the board.

  2. Define "philanthropy" as giving and sharing of one's time, talent or treasure for the common good. Discuss the definition of "common good." 

  3. Discuss how individuals are involved in acts of philanthropy on a daily basis. Direct students to the construction paper hung on the wall (two or three sheets as needed). Students are to draw one cartoon to represent an act of philanthropy they have received. Students have one minute to explain their drawing to the class.

  4. Explain that philanthropy is seen in all segments of society. Philanthropy is necessary for our society to run smoothly. Philanthropy is necessary for our government, at the national, state and local levels, to function smoothly.

  5. Ask the question: "Where is philanthropy evident at the national, state and local levels of government?" Ask students to list examples of the use of philanthropic activities in our democratic government. Create a list on the board and discuss (see handout for examples).

  6. Evaluate how effectively the government could function without the help of volunteers giving of their "time, talent and treasure." Government can't meet all our needs (and we don't want them to). The nonprofit sector fills in where business, family, and goverment don't meet needs. 

    Use the Olympic Games as a model, explore how each of the four sectors contribute to make a big effort work. Under the following headers on a chart on the board, list what they do: families, business, government, and volunteer organizaitons.

  7. Guide students to a conclusion that we need all sectors doing their share for the common good. Ask for other examples in life where the four sectors work together for the common good (child care, health care, research, environmental stewardship).

  8. Model the next activity by reading "Philanthropy Found in Government" rap song (Attachment One). The song is a compilation of ideas from the previous brainstorming activity.

  9. Philanthropy and Society Rap: Put students into small groups of two or three. Assign each group a role from which to consider how philanthropy is used. Use Roles in Society Handout (handout). Instruct students to follow the teacher example and construct a Rap Song or poem about their ideas using Rap Song Rubric (handout) as a guide.

  10. Have students share their songs with the class. The teacher may photocopy the typed lyrics so each student will have a copy. Ask the question: "Which activities listed in the songs were familiar to you? Unfamiliar?"

  11. Lead a class discussion on the following questions:

    • Is philanthropy a duty or a responsibility of citizenship? (A responsibility because a duty is something required by law.)
    • Is philanthropy essential to being a good citizen? Why? (Yes, because if people were not willing to give time, talent, or treasure then societal needs not addressed by the government would continue to go unmet.)
    • How do families help shape a democratic society by their individual or group actions? (Put answers on the board.)
    • Why are all four sectors needed in our democratic, market-based society?
  12. Place two intersecting circles on the board or see Venn Diagram (handout). On the left side of the diagram, define philanthropy. On the right side, define citizenship. (Students should copy the diagram on their own papers.) In the middle of their own diagram have students provide examples of philanthropic activities that reflect responsible citizenship. (See definitions in Vocabulary above.

    Examples may include advocating for civil rights, feeding hungry, and caring for the environment.) Allow students five minutes to complete the diagram. Discuss the completed diagrams as a class. Post the diagrams in the room to enable students to see each other's examples.


As a reflection activity, provide students with a half sheet of paper, and ask them to write two or three sentences explaining one example of a philanthropic activity they could do that reflects responsible citizenship. Use an example not already mentioned in class.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Discuss the role of family life in shaping a democratic society.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and discuss the interaction of families, business, government, and the civil society sector in a democratic society.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Identify how subgroups and families in society demonstrate giving, volunteering, and civic involvement.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.