Philanthropy and You

9, 10, 11, 12

The purpose of this lesson is to give students a personal and meaningful definition of philanthropy.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Eighty- Minute Block or Two Forty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • be able to define philanthropy and incorporate background information from class discussion.
  • research and summarize a well-known philanthropist from provided list (see Handout Five: Famous American Philanthropists).
  • write a three-paragraph essay summarizing what they have learned about philanthropy and their role as philanthropists.
  • student copies of the handouts: definitions of philanthropy, background information about philanthropy, a poem about philanthropy, summaries of two current philanthropists, and a list of suggested philanthropists for students to research 
  • Bently, Richard J., and Luana G. Nisson. The Roots of Giving and Serving. Indianapolis: Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, I.U.P.U.I., 1996.
  • Ellis, S. J., and K. H. Noyes. By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.
  • Fugate, S. For the Benefit of All: A History of Philanthropy in Michigan. Battle Creek: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 1997.
  • McCarty, Oseola. Oseola McCarty's Simple Wisdom for Rich Living. Longstreet Press, 1996.
  • Sterling, M. E., M.Ed., and D. H. Rice. Unlikely Heroes in the 20th Century. Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials, 1997.
  • Joyner-Kersee, Jackie: (sports).


  1. Anticipatory Set: Write the word "Philanthropy" on the board and ask students if they have ever given money or shared time with someone just because they wanted to or someone wanted them to. Guide a brief discussion about the variety of ways to be philanthropic.

  2. Tell students that "giving and sharing" is a simplified definition of philanthropy. In this lesson, they will learn a more complete definition and will look at examples of philanthropists.

  3. Consider showing this clip from Salvatore Alaimo's film 'What is Philanthropy?' to aid in understanding and discussion. 

  4. Divide the class into four to five groups, three or four students in each group. Distribute copies of the handouts to each group: definitions, background facts, poem, biographies and list of philanthropists.

  5. Assign each group a handout to present to the rest of the class. One small group could present definitions, another facts, another the poem and another the biographies.
    • Allow time for groups to decide how they will share their information with the whole group and to practice reading their parts.
    • Then each group takes a turn presenting their handout while the other groups follow along and take notes.
    • Reflect with the class after each presentation.
  6. After the sharing and discussion, ask students to look at the list of famous philanthropists. Read through the list and let students choose a philanthropist to research. The bibliography should be used for additional resources.

  7. Assign a three-paragraph essay on Philanthropy. The first paragraph should include a personal definition of philanthropy and background information/facts of student's choice. The second paragraph is a summary of a famous philanthropist the student has researched. The third paragraph discusses how student work/action in the community qualifies them as philanthropists or what action the student could take that would qualify as philanthropy.

Cross Curriculum 

At the end of Lesson Two: Philanthropy in Your Community, students will carry out a philanthropic action.

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. Benchmark HS.2 Identify and discuss examples of philanthropy and charity in modern culture.