Community Foundation at Work (The )

9, 10, 11, 12

In Lesson One: Global Issues, the learners researched the work of foundations doing philanthropic work around the world. In this lesson they will look at foundations in their own community, specifically community foundations. They will analyze services in their community and note that the government is not always able to provide all the services needed.

PrintTwo Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • identify local organizations that provide a service to the community.
  • define philanthropy, give examples of it and describe motivations for charitable giving.
  • describe the work of the local community foundation.
  • General Motivations for Charitable Giving (Handout One)
  • Investigating the Work of Community Foundations (Handout Two) (Spanish version Handout Three)
  • Butcher paper or poster boards
  • The Council on Foundations was established in 1949 to promote and strengthen organized philanthropy. The council’s web site includes an excellent glossary of terms related to foundations.
  • Pactor, Andrea. “Foundations” briefing paper.
  • Prince, Russ A. and Karen M. File. The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. ISBN: 0-7879-6057-8
  • The National Directory of U. S. Community Foundations
  • GuideStar is a searchable website with a database 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.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Remind students of the previous lesson where they were asked to describe the characteristics of their own community. Have them keep those characteristics in mind and ask them to name any organizations in the community that provide services that are necessary for those who live in the community. An example would be the Red Cross or the soup kitchen run by a local church. List these on the board as students name them.

  2. When the learners have finished naming local organizations, go over the list and mark them as “C” (corporation), “P” (private organization, including both religious and secular organizations), and “G” (government). Remind students that this list is the proof that a number of services that are provided in a community are not all done by the government. Because the government does not have the funds or the ability to do everything that needs to be done in a community, there are others that step up and take on some of them.

    • Put the term philanthropy on the board. Solicit definitions from the learners. Explain that philanthropy is the giving of one’s time, talent or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good. Philanthropy also refers to voluntary action for the public good. Let the learners know that many of the organizations which provide services for the public are philanthropic. They are nonprofit organizations which contribute to the common good. Since they are not in business to earn a profit and have less restrictions on them from the government than regular businesses do, the nonprofit sector is a place for the creation and spread of new ideas, an efficient way to provide social services, and a caretaker of the environment, values and heritage. The following types of organizations are examples of the nonprofit sector:
      • Professional and trade associations: These include chambers of commerce, business leagues, unions, and other organizations that promote the business or professional interests of a community, an industry, or a profession.
      • Social welfare/advocacy organizations: The NAACP, the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, and the National Organization for Women are examples of nonprofits which are social welfare or advocacy organizations.
      • Foundations: Many individuals, families, businesses and communities establish foundations as a way to give money to causes and programs that benefit society. They are nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations with their own funds, managed by trustees and directors, which maintain or aid charitable, educational, religious or other activities serving the common good, primarily by giving grants to other nonprofit organizations. There are nearly 50,000 foundations in the United States. (NOTE: The organizations that contributed money to communities around the world in the first lesson were foundations.)

      Many students may not believe that philanthropy is as prevalent in society as it is. Ask them to brainstorm a list of “philanthropic giving” that they or members of their family might be involved in. Put the examples on the board. Continue with the list until it is clear that students have a good idea that it is not merely rich people who “give.” Examples of every day philanthropy may include: giving donations to a church, contributing to the United Way, volunteering with the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, contributing to the Old Newsboys Fund or Toys for Tots, collecting pop can tops for Ronald McDonald House, saving Campbell Soup can labels for the school to get media equipment, raking leaves or shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, baby-sitting for others without pay, etc.

    • Throw out this question to the learners, “Why would anyone want to be a philanthropist?” As the learners are suggesting answers to the question, ask for examples, if possible. Once the learners have given their suggestions, point out that there are several reasons for giving (see General Motivations for Charitable Giving, Attachment One), including the following:
      • Some people give because of their sense of belonging to a community. They give because they consider nonprofit organizations more effective at delivering services and more attuned with community needs.
      • Some give because it is a moral obligation. They believe everyone needs to take responsibility for creating a better world and should not expect personal recognition for volunteering time, talent or treasure.
      • Some see philanthropy as “good business.” They are motivated by the personal tax and other financial benefits philanthropy gives.
      • Some enjoy the socializing and entertainment that are part of contributing to a good cause.
      • Some “pay back” in return for what they have received in life.
      • Some givers see philanthropy as a family tradition. They were raised by parents or other relatives who stressed the importance of giving.
      • Some givers feel a sense of purpose and personal fulfillment when they contribute. They see themselves as the true philanthropists who are not concerned with business or personal gain.
    • In Lesson One: Global Issues, the learners got to see U.S.-based foundations that provide philanthropic aid to communities around the world. Ask them if there is any foundation in their community that provides aid. Explain that in most communities there are community foundations that pool the resources of many donors and focus their grant-making on that particular city or region. The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Cleveland Foundation and the New York Community Trust are examples of community foundations.
    • Distribute Investigating the Work of Community Foundations (Attachment Two). To get a feel for the work of community foundations, have the learners go to the Council on Foundations Web site at and click on “Community Foundation Locator” at the top of the page. Have students type in the name of any community other than their own and research the types of grants that have been awarded by the community foundation there. Fill in information, as available, on the worksheet. Have the learners continue by researching the local community foundation. How does the philanthropy of each community foundation researched reflect the needs of the community itself? Are the two foundations included in the chart similar or different in their giving? How? (NOTE: In smaller communities the local community foundation may be part of a regional foundation so remind students to be flexible when typing in the name of their community.)

Distribute butcher paper or poster boards. Divide the class into small teams of two. Let each team illustrate a motivation for charitable giving, including in the design an imaginary symbol that could be used to represent the local community foundation. Display the posters in the classroom throughout the next lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define the term foundation and describe the types of foundations.
      2. 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.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.