"Phil"-ing Good: Philanthropy Lesson (3rd)

3, 4, 5

This lesson introduces the definition of philanthropy as giving or sharing time, talent or treasure for the common good and its importance to and effects on the community.

Lesson Rating 
Print1-2 Forty-five minute class periods

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy as giving or sharing time, talent or treasure for the common good.
  • identify acts of philanthropy.
  • recognize the value of community capital in his/her classroom and community.
  • design a poster illustrating the definition of philanthropy.
  • A copy of the book A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams (see Bibliographical References)
  • Video clip of “Philanthropy Is . . .” 
  • White drawing paper
  • Pencils, crayons and rulers
  • Journals (optional)
  • What is Philanthropy? Video (See Learning to Give YouTube)
  • Williams, Vera B.  A Chair for My Mother.  Harper Trophy, 1984.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Show the video: What is Philanthropy? This five-minute video introduces the concept of philanthropy by asking several people (adults and students) to define it. Some of the answers are humorous. After viewing the video, ask the students to make guesses of their own about the definition of philanthropy. Using some of the student ideas if possible, discuss the definition of philanthropy (giving time, talent and treasure and taking action for the common good) and have the students put it in writing in their journals if available.

  2. Tell the students that you are going to read a book to them and you want them to listen for examples of philanthropy in the story. When you have finished reading, you will ask them to identify the examples and classify them as giving time, giving talent or giving treasure. Read A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams.

  3. Write the headings “Time,” “Talent” and “Treasure” on the chalkboard. After reading the story, ask the students to identify the philanthropic acts and tell you under which category each example belongs (some acts may fit under more than one category). When they have named all the examples from the book, have them continue by naming examples of philanthropy they have seen in the news, in their neighborhoods or in the school. Continue to write their examples in the three categories until you have a significant list. Encourage broader thinking by suggesting examples you have seen.

  4. While referring to the brainstormed list, ask the students to think about how the persons performing these philanthropic acts feel. Ask students to think about why they do it, what they have to give up, and what positive effects it has for them. First, lead the students to realize that people have personal reasons for being philanthropic. Secondly, discuss what time or resources they have to give up—opportunity costs. Thirdly, lead students to recognize that the givers are building up community capital.

  5. Define community capital as the positive feelings that are generated toward the community when community members act together in a positive way - often performing acts of philanthropy. These positive feelings are like savings in a bank, often to be returned (or reciprocated) later, passed on to another person in need or called on in times of conflict or crisis.

  6. (Optional) Ask students to reflect on the concepts of the lesson by writing in their journals. Ask them to recall something they have done for someone else and describe how they felt about it. They may write why they did it or what positive effect it had for them.

  7. Day Two (Optional)

    Review the lists of examples of philanthropic acts generated on Day One. Ask the students to recall why people give.

  8. Working alone or in pairs, students design and create posters that illustrate the definition of philanthropy. The posters should include a definition, an illustration of a philanthropic act and at least three sentences that describe the effects of the philanthropic act. The effects may be for the giver or receiver or both.

  9. Display the posters somewhere in the school to raise awareness in the school community about the importance of philanthropy.

Cross Curriculum 

The students design and display a poster illustrating the definition of philanthropy.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify why people practice philanthropy related to their own self-interest.