YOU as Philanthropists

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

Youth Activity: Participants will re-examine the definition of philanthropy and recognize philanthropic traits. They will begin to understand philanthropy and see themselves as philanthropists. Participants will begin to see themselves in a “new light” and reflect on how they may want to give of their time, talent, and treasure. They will become aware of others in the community who are philanthropists.

“All people who exert themselves for the well-being of others; who engage in practical and heartfelt benevolence; who donate money and time to causes they believe in so that the world may become a better place. ” ~ Oxford English Dictionary definition of a philanthropist
Lesson Rating 
Print60 minutes
The youth will:
  • understand the definition of philanthropy and its associated behaviors.
  • understand that everyone (including them) can be philanthropists.
  • reflect on their ideas of what a philanthropist is and individuals they know in the community who fit the description.
  • handout "Just Who Is a Philanthropist"
  • local newspaper
Home Connection 

Participants might return home and talk to their family and friends about a cause or organization they have supported over time and why they support it. Participants may review their own giving of time, talent, and treasure. Is there an issue or organization for which they would like to continue giving their time, talent, and treasure? Encourage the participants to keep this in mind as they volunteer at school or in your organization.

  1. What did you learn about yourself and others in this activity?
  2. What other words describe the actions of philanthropy to add to our list?
  3. Each of the people we read about has selected at least one special cause or organization to support. Think of a cause, or organization you currently support or one you might consider supporting.


  1. Review and discuss the following definitions of philanthropy and the behaviors associated with philanthropy:
    • Giving, serving and private citizen action intended for the common good
    • Thoughtful, intentional and ongoing giving of one’s time, talent and treasure for the common good
  2. The facilitator introduces the activity by explaining that very few people call themselves “philanthropists” but many people practice philanthropy. After completing this module, it is hoped that participants begin to see themselves in this role and be proud to call themselves “a philanthropist.” There are lots of reasons why people don’t use this word:
    • hard to pronounce,
    • sounds like you are bragging,
    • only associate the word with certain individuals - people who give a great deal of money to good causes who are no longer living.
    The session will make this word and role come alive for you and help you pass it on to others.
  3. The facilitator passes out the worksheet: Just Who Is a Philanthropist? Participants need to find space to write. They are directed to fill out the worksheets individually, thinking about good causes in their own communities. The facilitator should encourage them to consider schools, parks, neighborhood associations, faith-based organizations, etc.

  4. The facilitator brings the participants back together and asks them to put their handout aside for a few minutes. The participants are divided into small groups and each is given a hometown newspaper. The instructions are to find any newspaper stories about philanthropy/philanthropists. If they find such a story(ies), they are to circle the story and discuss in small groups why they believe the person cited in the story(ies) is a philanthropist. The group will appoint one person to report their findings.
  5. The facilitator brings the groups back together and asks them to report their discoveries. As participants report, they respond to these questions:
    1. What was the name of the person?
    2. What characteristics does this person have that made your group decide he/she was a philanthropist?
    3. Where and how did this person spend their time, talent, and treasure?
    Each group reports. Next the facilitator asks the participants to review their own handout and answer the same questions. Were similarities found?
  6. Each of us has someone we can think of who supports a special cause: breast cancer, heart association, environment, literacy, or mental health. In the definitions of philanthropy used in this exercise, there are some very important behavior words:
    • thoughtful 
    • intentional 
    • ongoing
    Thoughtful: This means to think about where you want to give your time, talent and treasure. What is important to you? What touches your heart? If you worry about the homeless people, you may want to support agencies and shelters which protect and nurture the homeless.
    Intentional: This means that you have thought about the cause you believe in and you are very deliberate about where you will give your time, talent, and treasure. It is “intentional” giving.
    Ongoing: This means that you have determined where you are giving your time, talent, and treasure and this decision will probably be a long term one. The facilitator gives an example, such as, “For instance, my grandmother and mother were very involved in the American Red Cross and as a young child, I was aware of the time, talent, and treasure they both gave to the Red Cross. As soon as I was old enough, I became involved in the Junior Red Cross and worked as a hospital aide through high school. Today, even though my grandmother has died and my mother is too ill to volunteer, when a request comes for a donation, I give to the Red Cross. That is what is meant by ongoing/over time.”

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 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. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
      2. 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 HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.