Characterizing Philanthropic People: Philanthropy Lesson (7th)

6, 7, 8

Students will gain a basic understanding of philanthropic vocabulary and how they see it reflected in their lives and in their school and community.

PrintOne Class Period with Optional second period

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy,common good, nonprofit.
  • list characteristics of a philanthropic person.
  • identify actions of philanthropic people.
  • Song: “Chain of Love” by Clay Walker 
  • Clear chalkboard, large wall, or large flip chart paper and have markers or chalk
  • Teacher prepared self-stick notes from Handout One: List of Philanthropic and Non-Philanthropic Traits


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Play the song “Chain of Love” by Clay Walker, or print/display the lyrics (See Bibliographical References). Ask the question, “What is the theme of this song? What is it talking about?” (Helping others) “What was the result when these people helped the strangers? Did they have to pay them or do something in return?” Lead students to the idea that they helped just because it was the right thing to do. 

  2. Day One:

    Introduce the definition of philanthropy. (The definition in this lesson will be: “individuals or organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world.”) Explain that most philanthropic organizations are nonprofits. (The definition for nonprofits used in this unit is any organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of anyone involved in the organization, but is reinvested in the organization and/or its mission.), but that for-profit corporations often do some philanthropic work to help the communities in which they do business.

  3. On the board or wall, draw a large T-graph. Label one side “Philanthropic Character Traits,” the other side “Non-Philanthropic Traits.” Give each student a self-stick note with a trait listed on it from Handout One: List of Philanthropic and Non-Philanthropic Character Traits . Ask students to bring their self-stick notes to the graph and place them under a heading. As a class, discuss why each does or does not belong under that heading.

  4. Challenge the students to think of examples of people from history or the present, famous persons or acquaintances, who are philanthropists because they helped others or acted for the common good. In class discussion, have several students share the person’s name, the philanthropic act, and the character traits from the T-chart that might describe the person.

  5. Optional Day Two:

  6. Go over the characteristics on the “T” chart made in the previous lesson. Ask students if there are any additional characteristics of philanthropic people that should be added to the list. Also ask if they have thought of any additional examples of philanthropic people since the previous lesson.

  7. In writing, ask students to select what three philanthropic character traits they believe are the most important and tell why they believe so in a brief sentence.

  8. Create a simple bar graph of the traits and the number of times each was selected as most important. Interpret the data on the bar graph. Discuss why some traits might have been selected by more people as the “most important.” Do they think this may be true in other communities that may or may not be of the same size, or have the same population diversity? Why or why not? Do they think people of different generations would choose the same character traits as the “most important?” Why or why not? Teacher Note: If there is more than one class in the school doing this lesson, the graphs could be compared. Students are usually interested in comparing their results with other classes.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.