Defining Philanthropy—Who's Phil's Aunt Thropy?

6, 7, 8
The purpose of this lesson is for students to develop an understanding of Philanthropy.
Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo to Three 60-Minute Class Periods
Students will:
  • be able to define philanthropy.
  • be able to identify "nonprofit," "independent" and "third sector" as synonymous terms when discussing philanthropy.
  • identify at least three ways in which people "give" for the common good.
  • be able to identify at least five philanthropic organizations.
List of Philanthropic Organizations (student developed).

For further information, refer to the list of philanthropic organizations below. This list is not comprehensive; rather it is intended to give the teacher a starting point.

Philanthropic Organizations:

  1. The American Red Cross

  2. The United Way

  3. Habitat for Humanity


  5. Sierra Club

  6. League of Women Voters

  7. Hospitals, Cancer Society, Hospice and other health care organizations.

  8. Service organizations such as Lions International, Rotary, and Kiwanis

  9. Mutual benefit societies such as Chamber of Commerce, Sororities, and Fraternities.

  10. Religious-based organizations such as YWCA or YMCA.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask the questions, "How many students know Phil's Aunt Thropy? How many students think that they are philanthropists?" Briefly discuss and develop a definition of philanthropy by brainstorming students' ideas of the meaning of philanthropy and introduce the idea of giving for the common good. (The working definition of philanthropy is: individuals and organizations who provide their time, talent, and/or treasures for the common good.)

  2. Instruct students that several terms are used interchangeably when referring to philanthropic organizations such as "nonprofit" or "independent" or "third sector" organizations. Allow time for some discussion about the meaning and significance of the terms used.
  3. Give two or three specific examples of philanthropic organizations (i.e., The Red Cross, The United Way, and Rotary). Follow these examples with a brainstorming activity to identify a wide variety of other organizations active in philanthropy. From the student-developed list, identify those organizations that are active in the local community.
  4. Discuss with students the purpose of the local groups they identified. Students will know many philanthropic groups but may not know why they exist. Conduct a discussion why people participate in philanthropic activities. Develop a list for the class.
  5. Repeat the anticipatory set question, "How many students think that they are philanthropists?"
Students will find the mailing address for five philanthropic organizations. They will also, where possible, find the Internet addresses for the organizations selected. One other method of assessment could include a list of organizations, philanthropic and non-philanthropic, where students identify those that are and are not philanthropic. From the same list, have students identify those that are active locally and those that are not. This list will have to be developed based on the community where the lesson is being taught. For example:Place a check mark in front of any organization listed that is considered a philanthropic organization. Then, circle the number of any organization that is represented in our own community. 1. ____ Lions International2. ____ General Motors Corporation3. ____ Sparrow Hospital4. ____ Curtis Grocery

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss examples of civil society organizations from a list of categories of organizations.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark MS.1 State the purpose of a mission statement and describe how civil society organization mission statements relate to philanthropy.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Describe how a specific civil society organization in the community operates.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Identify and describe how regional civil society organizations help the people in the region.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Identify and describe civil society organizations whose purpose is associated with issues relating to "human characteristics of place."