Definition of Philanthropy

3, 4, 5

Through discussion and response to literature, we define philanthropy as the sharing of time, talent, and treasure for the common good. Participants reflect on the benefit of philanthropy to the giver and receiver.

Print One Fifty-Minute Session
  • Define philanthropy as giving time, talent, and/or treasurefor the common good.
  • Reflect on the difference between needs and wants and the freedom of volunteers to choose how they share their time, talent, and treasure.
  • Recognize that philanthropy provides benefits to the giver and receiver.

Read-aloud copy of Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan 

DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne.  Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen.  HarperTrophy, 1997.  ISBN: 0688152856.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen aloud. Tell about a personal experience with philanthropy and ask listeners to share their own experiences with giving and volunteering.

  2. Define philanthropy as the sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good. Ask for examples of phiilanthropy in the book Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen. Talk about why each person in the story shared his/her time, talent, or treasure. Ask participants to think about what they would like about being the giver in these situations. (They are reflecting on the benefits to the person who gives.)

  3. A soup kitchen provides food for people who are in need. Discuss the difference between wants and needs. (Wants are things we desire that are nonessential for life, such as toys, trendy clothes, or a vacation to Disneyland. Needs are things essential to life, such as food, water, shelter, and clothes.) Discuss whether volunteering is always associated with needs rather than wants.

    Talk about how volunteering involves choice. People give their time, talent, and treasure in areas of personal interest. Uncle Willie loves helping in the soup kitchen to give people what they need. Some people love working with young people to enrich their lives with nonessentials.

  4. Discuss the difference between selfishness and selflessness (selfishness is something done purely for ourselves; selflessnessis something done purely for others). Ask the participants to identify exammples in the book and in things they have observed in their own interactions, in other books, or in other media.

  5. Discuss the difference between volunteering and paid labor. Look for evidence in the pictures and text that indicates whether Uncle Willie is paid for what he does. Discuss whether volunteering is a selfless act.

  6. Reflection topic: If I helped in a soup kitchen, I would... Their written responses are personal and will demonstrate each person's level of thinking about volunteering, selflessness, helpfulness, and sensitivity to others.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Explain the difference between wants and needs.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Recognize that volunteering requires freedom of choice.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.11 Describe the difference between volunteer and paid labor.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify why people practice philanthropy related to their own self-interest.