What Is Philathropy Education?

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Philanthropy education teaches youth about the civil society, or nonprofit, sector and the importance of giving time, talent and treasure for the common good. Philanthropy education equips youth by encouraging charitable behavior and empowers them to take voluntary citizen action for the common good in their classrooms, communities and lives.

A simple definition of philanthropy -- "giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good" -- allows even the youngest people to call themselves philanthropists when they help a neighbor, collect coats for a homeless shelter, or tutor at a local elementary school. These actions require no money to benefit society. And as the following quotes from 4th and 5th graders show, we feel really good while we're doing it. That is because philanthropy is good for the giver and receiver of the service.

"Philanthropy is something you do for free without paying because that means you have a heart."

"I helped someone by shoveling their driveway so they wouldn't have to come out in the freezing cold. See, philanthropy makes you and the other person very happy."

What is the philanthropy sector?

There has not been a movement for social change in America, nor any effort to protect the rights of a segment of society that has not had its roots in philanthropy. There are some things that government and business (and family) simply cannot take care of. So the philanthropy sector picks up the slack.

Serving as watchdogs and guardians of citizen rights, generations of Americans have stepped forward to safeguard democracy and protect and enrich lives. Historical efforts include the abolitionist movement, the suffragist movement, civil rights, environmentalists working to improve the quality of our air and water and other health groups raising money for research and care.

Why prepare the next generation?

"Good citizenship is tantamount to success both in and out of school and we, as educators, cannot afford to leave its development to chance. It is often said that history repeats itself. Perhaps by teaching the good and unselfish acts of mankind, we may steer youth into repeating the positive aspects of our history." -- Pam, elementary teacher in Detroit, MI

Teaching young people about the historical importance of philanthropy promotes its continued practice. We can't leave it to chance. If we want our future to include the arts, emergency assistance, activism and advocacy for issues such as injustice and environmental awareness, we need to teach philanthropy skills and give practice so students develop their philanthropic muscles.

Learning to Give has defined K-12 philanthropy education through academic philanthropy standards that cover the following essential skills and areas of knowledge:

  • Definition of the nonprofit sector and sufficient understanding to compare and contrast it with business, government, and the family.
  • Understanding of the relationship of philanthropy to core social studies disciplines: geography, economics, government, and history.
  • Ability to discuss the relationship of philanthropy to core democratic values articulated in the founding documents of the United States.
  • Ability to identify philanthropic principles in literature and to discuss insights gained through reading.
  • Understanding of the human nature of altruism and motivations for giving and serving.
  • Recognition of career opportunities in nonprofit organizations.
  • Experience in identifying community needs and designing volunteer projects to meet needs.
  • Demonstrating skills of citizenship.