Philanthropy or Kindness?


Students often have a difficult time distinguishing between acts of kindness and acts of philanthropy. Using the class-generated definition of philanthropy from the “Defining Philanthropy” lesson, students will examine various situations and decide which ones are acts of philanthropy. Students will also discover that empathy is at the heart of both actions.  

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

PrintUp to 50 minutes

Students will distinguish between acts of philanthropy and acts of kindness utilizing the concept that philanthropy benefits mankind or the larger community rather than the individual.


Internet-connected devices or a classroom response system

Teacher-created situations list of kind and philanthropic acts (see Teacher Prep below)

Teacher Preparation 

Create a “Philanthropy vs. Kindness” list / form on your chosen classroom feedback / response system. Your classroom response system doesn’t have to be digital or automated, but two online tools you can use for this are and poll everywhere. (I use the audience interaction app called to generate a true/false poll; I like the variation and collective feedback that provides).

Identify a definition of kindness that you like and will share with students. Utilizing this kindness definition and the definition of philanthropy developed by the class during the last lesson, create a list of scenarios that you will have students consider as they determine which are acts of philanthropy and which are acts of kindness. Examples of scenarios include: Helping younger students with math homework after school; listening to a friend who is upset; serving a meal at the Women’s Shelter; smiling at people in the hall; and giving a hot cup of coffee to a homeless man you pass regularly on the street.


Philanthropy, kindness


Students do a “write and share” by writing a reflection based on the following prompts and sharing their reflection in class discussion: What philanthropic efforts have you seen or been involved in before? How did this effort benefit the community? In what way are kindness and philanthropy similar?

A Word About Reflection: A teacher should gauge what he or she feels will work best for reflection: a whole class discussion, asking for volunteers to share after completing a reflection, or keeping written reflections private. The type of reflection a teacher asks students to do can depend on several factors, including the time left after other activities are completed, the tone of the class, how personal the reflection topic may be, and how strong the class bond is.  


Payton, Robert L. and Moody, Michael P. "Voluntary Action For The Public Good.” Understanding Philanthropy: Its Meaning and Mission, chapter 1. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

Poll everywhere audience interaction / response app available at audience interaction / response app available at


  1. Display the list of scenarios you have developed and ask students to choose which they think are examples of acts of philanthropy, and which are examples of acts of kindness.

  2. Share the class results; here the or poll everywhere tools are most useful since they provide immediate results for the class to see. Is there universal agreement?

  3. Share with the class the definition of kindness you selected. Then ask them to recall the definition of philanthropy you’ve chosen to use for the course.

  4. Emphasize the component of the definition that extends acts of philanthropy beyond the individual. In their book Understanding Philanthropy, Payton and Moody discuss at length the significance of philanthropy being action taken “for the public good”, but it is sufficient to help students understand that a community of individuals will benefit from philanthropic actions and, by extension, society as a whole benefits. A defining difference between philanthropy and kindness is who benefits.

  5. Examine the list again allowing students to revote.

  6. Discuss the voting results. Are the results different than those of the first vote? Is there universal agreement? There will likely be some examples that could be argued either way, such as, “adopting a dog from an animal shelter.” In this example, does this benefit society as a whole by reducing the burden that unwanted pets and stray animals place on a community?

  7. Ask students to do the reflection and be ready to share their thoughts with the class.