Hmmm—What is Philanthropy?

9, 10, 11, 12

This lesson will develop understanding of philanthropy through definition and actions. Activities for students to get to know themselves and their classmates, utilizing concepts of philanthropy, will provide learners with meaningful opportunities for later service learning projects.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Fifty Minute Class Periods, plus three days between assignment and completion

The learner will:

    • define philanthropy.
    • identify individual skills, talents and interests as applicable to voluntary action for the common good.
    • identify examples of charitable giving and philanthropy in modern times. Use events and aftermath of September 11, 2001 to discuss the ways Americans and people all over the world practiced philanthropy.
    • define the sectors as private, public and independent/nonprofit. Discuss roles of each in philanthropy.
    • investigate the types of philanthropic institutions: charities and community foundations (public); and family, corporate and independent foundations (private).
    • describe gifts from public (community) and private (family, corporate and independent) foundations that help the community.
    • produce a one-page properly-cited essay which identifies either:
      • A nonprofit group and the goods or services it produces without a profit incentive. Or
      • Identify and describe an historical figure or a group from 1950 to the present that acted to impact the common good.
    • orally present the essay information to the class Instructor Note: Display their essays in the room and leave up until Lesson Three: Philanthropy and the Great Society — What Can We Do Today? is completed.
  • Colored markers
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Handout One: Philanthropy "What is My Place?" (Spanish version Handout Two)
  • cameras
  • music for song "Getting To Know You."
Home Connection 

Complete Attachment One: Philanthropy "What is My Place?" with parent discussion at home. Allow one day for return as completed assignment.

  • Active Citizenship Today: Field Guide. CA: Constitutional Rights Foundation, 1995. ISBN: 0932765580.
  • Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. Florida: Health Communications, Inc., 1997. ISBN: 1558748040
  • Digeronimo, Theresa. A Student's Guide to Volunteering. NJ: Career Press, 1995. ASIN: 1564141705
  • Lewis, Barbara A.. Kids With Courage: True Stories About Young People Making a Difference. Free Spirit Publishing, 1992 ISBN 0915793393
  • 150 Ways Teens Can Make A Difference: A Handbook for Action. NJ: Peterson's Guides, 1991. ASIN: 1560790938
  • Use this site to locate information on foundations.
  • Use Learning to Give's search function to locate information on types of foundations.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Move the class into groups of three to four learners. Give each group a large blank sheet of paper and one or two colored markers. Ask learners to write any words or phrases that they think are associated with the word PHILANTHROPY and record their responses on their group's sheet of paper. Allow no more than ten minutes for this activity. Have one member of each group share their responses with the class.

  2. Guide the class in developing the following definition of philanthropy: Giving, sharing of time, talent or treasure intended for the common good. Include not only volunteering but expand to private action for the common good. Have learners develop ways volunteer groups can impact the common good. Instructor's Notes: It is suggested that the instructor go to the web address provided for Guidestar and download a list of the different types of foundations defined below for personal and learner reference.

  3. Select readings from: Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. Florida: Health Communications, Inc., 1997. Discuss the readings selected in terms of ennobled self and altruism.

  4. Develop through discussion the following concepts: Altruism (n) Selfless concern for the welfare of others - altruist (n), altruistic (adj.), altruistically (adv.) Charitable sector (n) Refers to the nonprofit sector emphasizing the support and the mission of those organizations which help others Common good (n) Resources shared for the collective benefit of the whole group of people Community foundation (n) An organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region. Funds are usually derived from many donors and held in an endowment independently administered; income earned by the endowment is then used to make grants Corporate or Company-sponsored foundation (n) A private foundation whose grant funds are derived primarily from the contributions of a profit-making business organization. Examples include Dow Chemical Foundation and the Ford Motor Company Fund. Endowment (n) Funds intended to be kept permanently and invested to provide income for continued support of an organization Ennobled self (n) Defines when a person acts upon their own personal values and in turn experiences a feeling of personal satisfaction - defined by Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule Faith-based charities (n) A religious organization whose purpose is to aid those in need Family foundation (n) A private foundation whose funds are derived from members of a single family Foundation (n) An organization created from designated funds from which the income is distributed as grants to not-for-profit organizations or, in some cases, to people; a charitable nonprofit that supports charitable activities in order to serve the common good. Independent foundation (n) A grant-making organization usually classified by the IRS as a private foundation; operates independently from its original donors or original source of funds. Examples include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Independent sector (n) Used when discussing the nonprofit sector to emphasize the important role these organizations play as a "third force" outside of the realm of government and private business

  5. Brainstorm a list of ways all sectors (government, business, nonprofit, and individuals/family) provide time, talent and treasure in response to a specific need or event (examples: September 11 crisis, police brutality, a natural disaster, or human rights issue/LGBT rights). Include the penny campaigns of very young school children, get well, thank you and sympathy cards designed and sent by K-12 students, nonprofit advocacy for an issue, non-partisanship in legislation, and businesses donating funds.

  6. Help learners develop a connection between these activities and the concepts of altruism and ennobled self. Also, discuss how giving also benefits the individual or organization (enlightened self-interest).

  7. Ask learners to develop a class list of things they, their families, their friends and their school have done to improve the common good.

  8. Have the learners develop a three-column chart to complete through internet research. The first column lists the different types of foundations (family, community, and corporate.In the second column, theywrite a description that identifies the funding source and basic structure of each type. The third column lists at least two existing foundations as examples of each type from their research on the Internet using

  9. Assign the one-page essay about one of the following two choices:

    • Identify and describe a nonprofit group and the goods or services it produces without a profit incentive. Or
    • <li style="\&quot;margin:" 0.5em="" 0em="" 30px;="" padding:="" 0px;="" list-style:="" circle;\"="">Identify and describe a historical figure or a group from 1950 to the present that acted to impact the common good. Essay and Presentation Rubric 4 Points Essay correctly establishes topic sentence based on selection made and followed by supportive data based on properly cited research. A minimum of two sources of data cited. Writing within 90 % or better of standards expected at grade level. Learner can relate his/her findings and conclusions without reading word for word and answer relevant questions based on the topic chosen and research conducted. 3 Points Essay follows one of two choices provided and adequate supportive data given. A minimum of two research data sources cited. Writing standards met within 75%. Learner can relate his/her topic to the class and adequately discuss his/her research. 2 Points While a choice is made, the topic sentence is not supported with adequate research data. A minimum of one citation is made. Writing standards are met within 60%. Learner may relate findings but must rely on reading his/her essay to the class. 1 Point An attempt is made but not turned in to the instructor in a timely fashion. Not presented to the class. 0 Points No attempt is made and no work returned to the instructor.

Completion of class assignment, Attachment One: Philanthropy "What is My Place?" Student presentations of their individual essays. Evaluation of essay using rubric provided. Contributions to class discussions. Teacher observations.

Cross Curriculum 

Ms. Bush is a high school teacher from  California. "I love service learning and engaging all aspects of a child in their learning," she said. "I believe giving leadership opportunities to all kids can bring out hidden elements of personality and connection to earth and peers that might not have taken place otherwise. I am inspired daily by what I see in my students and it strengthens my belief in the good of society.” 

Read about the service-learning project called The Urban Garden in a Food Desert by students who were taught using the Hmmm-What is Philanthropy? lesson to guide student learning and 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.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Provide examples from history of how the relationship between government and the civil society sector has changed.
    3. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Recognize and use a variety of terms related to the civil society sector appropriately, and identify the characteristics the terms describe.
    4. Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define the term foundation and describe the types of foundations.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Describe why a civil society sector corporation may produce goods and services without the profit incentive.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Compare and contrast opportunities for students to improve the common good to the opportunities available to students in other countries.