Philanthropy — What Is It?

3, 4, 5

Students learn the meaning of the word philanthropy and identify examples of philanthropy in their home, school and community.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy as the giving of time, talent or treasure for the common good.
  • distinguish between examples of time, talent and treasure in learner’s own experience.
  • name at least one philanthropic activity that is currently occurring in home, school or community.
  • design a poster to communicate the meaning and impact of philanthropy.
  • Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Best Night Out with Dad (see Bibliographical References)
  • What Is Philanthropy (Handout One)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Students bring home the homework assignment to work on with families. See Handout One: What Is Philanthropy? They communicate with their families what they learned about philanthropy in today’s lesson.


McCourt, Lisa. Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Best Night Out with Dad. Health Communications, Inc., 1997. ISBN: 155745084


  1. Anticipatory Set: Show the cover of the book Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Best Night Out with Dad. Before reading, tell the students that one person in this story is a philanthropist. Tell them that when you have finished reading, you will ask the students to decide who is a philanthropist and what that means. (If the students don’t have any prior knowledge of philanthropy, you may wish to hint that a philanthropist does something positive.) Read the story aloud. Ask the students to predict which character is a philanthropist and explain their answers.

  2. For further insight and discussion, consider showing a clip from Salvatore Alaimo's film 'What is Philanthropy?'. 

  3. Discuss the selfless act of the boy who gave his circus tickets to the other boy. Do any of the children believe they could have given the tickets? Did the boy who played basketball really mean it when he said it was the best night out with Dad? What made it so special? What did he have to give up (opportunity cost)? What did he get out of it (reasons for giving)? Was it worth it?

  4. Define philanthropy as the giving or sharing of time, talent or treasure for the common good. Discuss whether the boy gave his time, talent or treasure to the other boy. Encourage the students to share stories of acts of philanthropy they have observed or participated in. (Challenge them to think of examples at home, in the neighborhood, at school and in the community.)

  5. Brainstorm a list of things the class feels they have to share with others. Write the students’ ideas in lists under the headings: Time, Treasure and Talent. With the class’ help, put stars by the items that seem most appropriate to carry out. Discuss with the students the effect of sharing some of these things with others in the home, neighborhood, school or community.

  6. Assign students the task of creating a poster that communicates to others the meaning of philanthropy and gives an example of something that students can do for the common good. (Students may work alone or in pairs to complete the assignment.) See Assessment for poster details. Hang the posters around the school to promote the idea of philanthropy within the school community.


A poster with the highest point value should include the following elements:

Clear and concise title

Definition of philanthropy

Example of philanthropy that is accessible to students

Illustration Neat handwriting

Communicates benefits of philanthropy to community (through text or picture)

Cross Curriculum 

Students create posters defining and giving examples of philanthropy in order to raise awareness in the school community of philanthropy and its benefits.

Read about the service-learning project called The Grandparent Project by Indiana students who were taught using this Why Do People Give? unit of lessons to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Kerschner is a 4th grade teacher from Indiana who said, “I value teaching service and philanthropy to my students because I believe it is the best way to teach empathy and compassion to my students. In today's world it can be difficult to get kids to look beyond their own lives and see that others in our community need help. It encourages a classroom culture of kindness, awareness of others' feelings, and friendship.”

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. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> in philanthropic giving.
  3. 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.