Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Spend, Save or Donate: Penny Drive
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson will introduce learners to the concept of raising resources to help others. The learners will discover reasons why people choose to donate.


One Thirty to forty minute class period


The learner will:

  • differentiate between the vocabulary words, spend, save, and donate.
  • realize that s/he can make different choices with money.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

  Hold a penny drive to raise resources to support the work of a local nonprofit.


  • pennies (pennies used can be donated to a local charity)
  • large chart with headings: spend, save and donate 
  • different color markers

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Show students a pile of 100 pennies.  Count the pennies (by 1s, 5s and/or 10s as appropriate to the curriculum) as a class so that the learners will know that you are working with 100 pennies. Remind them that the 100 pennies represent one dollar.  Have the learners brainstorm what they might purchase with pennies.  Suggest that for today’s lesson they plan to buy candy and a toy.

  • Create a chart with three columns.  Label the columns: Spend, Save, and Donate.  It might be helpful for students to visualize this by putting a picture of candy and a picture of an inexpensive toy, as well as the words, in the appropriate column headings. (If using a floor chart invite the students to sit in a circle on the floor around it.)
  • Discuss the meaning of each word:

    • Spend: to pay out money in exchange for good or services.
    • Save: to set aside money for later use.
    • Donate:  to give or present something to a charitable organization or other good cause - charity.
  • Ask them to tell you what they think each word means and have a brief discussion about each, including examples from the children of each action.  Tell the children that when a person decides in advance how to use their money it is called a budget.
  • Ask the children to imagine that the 100 pennies is their allowance per day and the class will be deciding together on the budget, how to use it.  Suggest as a beginning point that they put 75 pennies for candy in the “spend” column and 25 pennies in the “save” for a toy to purchase later on.  If appropriate, illicit from the children how long it would take to save for the toy if they put 25 pennies a day in the save column.  Ask a student to help the teacher put the actual pennies on the chart along with the written number. (See below)

100 pennies = $1.00




  75 pennies for candy 25 pennies to save for a toy that costs 200 pennies or $2.00  
  50 pennies for candy 25 pennies 25 pennies

  • Now ask them to look at the chart again and talk about the empty column, “donate.”  Why might a person want to plan to donate when creating their budget?  Where might the money be donated?  How would they feel to donate some of their “treasure”? 
  • Now ask the students to suggest ways to rearrange the pennies so that some are in the “donate” column.  Write the numbers on the chart to note the new arrangement.  Ask the students to think about how taking pennies from the “spend” or “save” columns effects their plans for that money - the opportunity cost(They could buy less candy or it would take longer to save for the toy.)

  • Invite students to rearrange the coins several more times, as time and interest permit, each time asking them to explain their choices and the opportunity costs (less money to spend on candy, time needed to save for the toy, ability to help those in need).

Teacher Note: Using different color markers to write the amounts for each arrangement will help the children distinguish each budget suggestion.

  • As the exercise progresses, model vocabulary, and encourage the students to use, appropriate words: budget, donate, spend, save, philanthropy, philanthropist, need, opportunity cost.

Learning Link(s): (click to view)

Reflection: (click to view)

Lesson Developed By:

Clare Friend
Curriculum Consultant
Learning to Give


Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Spend, Save or Donate: Penny Drive Summary


Spend, Save or Donate: Penny Drive

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