Celebrity Philanthropists

3, 4, 5

Students learn about foundations and conduct research on one celebrity who acts as a philanthropist including the motivations for their giving.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods (Plus time for developing and presenting reports)

The learner will:

  • state some reasons why wealthy individuals set up foundations or give away their money for social causes.
  • define foundation and research the purpose of a local foundation.
  • research the philanthropic activities of one celebrity.
  • present a report on a celebrity who acts as a philanthropist.
  • Internet access for students to conduct research alone or in pairs
  • Student copies of Handout One: Rubric for Celebrity Report
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Students may employ parent/family help in editing and preparing their presentations. Encourage the students to talk with their families about the concept of giving back.


Learning to Give: Briefing Papers /professional-development/white-papers Scroll down to “People,”

The Foundation Center: Youth In Philanthropy https://youth.foundationcenter.org/ 

The Giving Back Fund Home Page http://www.givingback.org. Select “Foundations,”


  1. Anticipatory Set: Summarize the life of a famous philanthropist such as Andrew Carnegie, Paul Newman, Justin Timberlake, Oprah Winfrey or another recognizable name. (Information about these philanthropists can be found on the Learning to Give web site at www.learningtogive.org, Resource Room, under “Briefing Papers.”) Talk about the celebrity’s decision to be a philanthropist. Ask the students to listen for why this celebrity would choose to give large amounts of money away. In Carnegie’s case he gave 90% of his very sizable wealth. Read about his life at the following Web site: http://www.carnegie.org/sub/kids/carnegie.html

    Carnegie was very dedicated to building libraries where people could have access to free books. The following paragraph describes why he was so dedicated to giving back and giving to libraries in particular.

    As a young boy in Pittsburgh working long hours at his job, he had no access to education. However, a retired merchant, Colonel Anderson, had started a small library of 400 books with his personal collection, which he lent on Saturday afternoons to local boys. This is how Carnegie educated himself. Wrote Carnegie of Colonel Anderson’s library, ‘This is but a slight tribute and gives only a faint idea of the depth of gratitude which I feel for what he did for me and my companions. It was from my own early experience that I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive of good to boys and girls who have good within them and ability and ambition to develop it, as the founding of a public library in a community....’ It is this desire to make reading material available to people at no cost that made Carnegie build libraries all over the world.” (Quote taken from the Carnegie Foundation Web site.

    (Teacher Note:may be interested in reading from Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth,” his writings in which he says it is the duty of the wealthy individuals to live moderately and give their excess money for the common good.)

  2. Discuss other reasons famous people may have for giving for the common good related to their interests (tax benefits, dedication to a cause, believe it is a necessary part of the economy, giving back, etc.).

  3. Define “foundation” and talk about the purpose of a foundation. “A foundation is a charitable nonprofit that supports charitable activities in order to serve the common good.” (Excerpted from the article “What Is a Foundation” by Jerry Musich) Name some local examples of foundations and grant-making organizations (community foundations, large corporations, student advisory councils, etc.). For examples of major foundations go to the following Web site: http://www.learningtogive.org/papers/concepts/foundations.html

  4. Allow students to work in small groups to study the mission of one local (or other major) foundation. The students may refer to brochures or the Internet to learn about an assigned (or chosen) foundation. (To locate the information, students may go to www.Google.com and type in the name of their local community plus the name of the foundation.) Guiding questions: What is the purpose of the foundation? Who started it? Was it started by an organization or individual? What does the foundation like to fund? Where do they get their money? What are some of the grants they have awarded in the past? Is this foundation an example of someone giving back? Students present their findings to the rest of the class.

  5. Day Two:

  6. Remind the students that artists often get their start with the help of philanthropists and then feel the need to give back when they become wealthy. Many artists and celebrities set up foundations in order to share their wealth. Often, the foundation has a specific mission related to either the arts or a special health or literacy cause.

  7. Tell the students they will research the philanthropic acts of one celebrity. They may work alone or in pairs to conduct the research and make a presentation (computer presentation, poster, written report or other performance that communicates the given expectations).Distribute the project guidelines. See Handout One: Rubric for Celebrity Report. See Bibliographical References for some Web sites to help students get started.

  8. Give students sufficient time to conduct the research, prepare and edit/revise the report, and present the report to the class (two to five class periods depending on their experience and choice of media).

  9. Discuss the effects of celebrities giving time, talent or treasure for the common good. Not only are they using their resources to help others, but they also act as models and motivate others to care/share.


Use the rubric guidelines on Handout One: Rubric for Celebrity Report as a guide for grading student reports.

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
    3. Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Name at least one grant-making foundation.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Name a corporation or business that has contributed money for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.11 Identify an example of corporate philanthropy and citizenship.
      3. Benchmark E.2 Identify why people practice philanthropy related to their own self-interest.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify why private resources (volunteers and money) are needed.