Philanthropy Word Association Activity

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Youth Activity: Young people watch a video of people telling what they think "philanthropy" means. Then they conduct their own interviews to gather information about the understanding of the concept of philanthropy. 

“If I asked you what the word, “philanthropy” means to you, what would you say? “Philanthropy — isn’t that the study of big fishes?” or “Beats me!”

Print60 minutes

Youth will 

  • discover what others think about the word “philanthropy.”
  • list the words and actions that people associate with the word.
  • practice interview skills. 

YouTube video "What Is Philanthropy?"


Home Connection 

Encourage each participant to replicate this activity with their school, youth organization, or faith-based group. It would increase the participant's understanding and encourage others to begin discussing philanthropy.

  1. What did you discover about the general public and the word “philanthropy”?
  2. What did most people think about the word and what it means?
  3. Were you surprised at the number of matches (or no matches) when you compared the words in the definitions and the words people gave you?
  4. Why do you think so many people knew the word? Or did not know the word?
  5. Before today, what has been your experience with the word?
  6. What is your definition of philanthopy?


  1. Tell the youth that they are going to have fun being reporters who ask people on the street what the the word philanthropy means. Ask them what they think people will say in response?

  2. Give student partners (or groups) copies of the handout "People on the Street Interview" as a guide for this activity. Take them outside to a public area where they will meet a variety of people, like a downtown area or in a supermarket. Be sure to ask permission and avoid places that have a no solicitation policy. Give them 20 minutes to ask their questions of different willing people. The goal is to record the responses of three people each.

    Safety First!

    If the facilitator does not wish to have the participants out and about on the street, the activity could be conducted within the organization, school, or faith-based institution. It might be better to designate groups so the same people are not approached. Phone interviews are another option to consider.

    If the “on the street” version is used, have participants stay in groups of 2 or 3 in a designated area. Explain that they are to approach people by introducing themselves (first name only) and their organization, school, or faith-based group. Remind them that the people have permission to “Pass.”

  3. Return to the meeting room to discuss their experiences and view this video "What Is Philanthropy?"


  4. Share the following definitions of philanthropy in writing (on the board or on paper). Have the students circle any words that they heard in their interview answers. 

    • The giving of one’s time, talent, or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good
    • A tradition, a spirit, and a sector of society
    • Voluntary giving, voluntary service, and voluntary association, primarily, for the benefit of others
    • A desire to help mankind as indicated by acts of charity, etc. love of mankind
    • Thoughtful, intentional, and ongoing giving of your time, talent, and treasure for the common good: developing Habits of Giving and Serving
  5. Have the students share the responses they got in their interviews and compare what they heard to the definitions above or the responses on the video. 

    • Discuss whether people on the street have an accurate or informed understanding. 
    • Discuss how people learn about philanthropy. Ask, "should philanthropy be taught in school so more people understand it?" 
  6. Optional:

    Students may record responses with a video camera as they do the “People on the Street” portion of the activity. The video could be shared with other groups and with funders/foundations in the community. This will communicate general understanding or the need for community education.