Notes by Laurel Amabile, Director of the Annual Program Fund
Office of Stewardship and Development, Unitarian Universalist Association
The Learning to Give program  defines philanthropy as giving, serving, and taking private citizen action for the common good. The definition includes the traditional connotation of philanthropy as giving and extends the definition to cover volunteer work and social activism. A key element is the voluntary participation of citizens acting outside of business and government for the common good.
The New Jersey Youth in Philanthropy program  Teacher Resource Guide defines philanthropy as voluntary action for the public good that can be expressed as voluntary giving, voluntary service and voluntary association to help others live a better life. Voluntary giving is described as sharing money or material resources, or both, with others. Voluntary service is sharing time and talents (or work and wisdom) to help others. Voluntary association is coming together in a group to address the problems of society, to fulfill the needs of society, or to enhance the lives of others. Emphasis is place on the words for the public or common good.
Research indicates that children learn the value of philanthropic behavior through the following means:
Faith-based organizations and youth programs fill an important role in today’s society, where family and schools leave off. In these environments, added learning opportunities in the areas of philanthropic giving, stewardship and volunteer service are of significant value.
Religious philanthropy is distinguished from other philanthropic giving because of the theological teachings that influence it. Commonly held beliefs include:
The teachings of Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions have significantly influenced philanthropic culture and practices over time. Throughout our American history, religious philanthropy has prompted social change by addressing major issues and ills.
Nearly 47% of all philanthropic giving in America goes to religious institutions and causes. People who attend religious services regularly tend to give at higher levels and volunteer more frequently. Children and youth benefit from involvement in service and giving activities that are directly linked to the teaching and practices of their faith and religious values. The “faith factor”  has been identified as a factor having a positive influence on all kinds of secular philanthropy, particularly in the areas of high risk youth.
Caring and sharing behaviors can be learned and taught at all ages, from infancy onward throughout life. The roots of learning philanthropic behavior begin with an infant’s capacity for developing empathy, which is learned through being cared for and later being taught by the examples or messages of trusted adults (parents and caregivers).
The teaching and learning of philanthropy take place in several environments:
Recommended practices based on current understanding of young people and philanthropic learning and development include the following:
Download this document (Word).
For more information contact apf @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
Sidebar Content, Page Navigation
More Ways to Search
Donate to Support This Program and the Ongoing Work of the UUA
Read or subscribe to UUA.org Updates for the latest additions to our site.
Learn more about the Beliefs & Principles of Unitarian Universalism, or read our online magazine, UU World, for features on today's Unitarian Universalists. Visit an online UU church, or find a congregation near you.