As a man who was not only wealthy but also driven but a deep sense of morality, George Washington had established himself as one of the greatest philanthropists of his day by the time of his death. In fact, many present-day educational institutions exist, in large, because of donations that they received from Washington during his life.

The motivations behind the generosity of Washington can never fully be known, but several reasonable theories can be proposed to explain his numerous philanthropic actions. First, George Washington was known as a man who viewed moral virtue highly and sought to set both a professional and a personal example of morality to others in his words and actions. Therefore, it would only make sense that his acts of philanthropy allowed him to act on his personal beliefs while also setting an example as a leader. Additionally, the colonial culture in which he grew up as a boy and young man also highly valued generosity. In a similar manner to the old feudal system in Europe, wealthy planters in the colonies would support the poorer farmers who lived on and worked their lands. Also, Washington's religious beliefs definitely influenced his generous ways. He wrote once in a letter to a friend: "Never let [a]...person ask, without receiving something, if you have the means; always recollecting in what light the widow's mite was viewed." In this quote, he is referencing the story in the Bible of the admirable widow who gave to the Jewish temple all of the money that she owned, even though it was not a large sum. Secondly, Washington gave much money to education institutions, perhaps because he wanted others to obtain the higher education that he was never able to reach.

Throughout his professional life, Washington often expressed his insecurities concerning his limited formal education. By both funding colleges and personally paying for the children of his friends to attend college, perhaps Washington was trying to prevent other future leaders from having his same story. Next, George Washington donated to several orphanages, but specifically to one called Alexandria Academy, located very close to his estate. Because George and his wife Martha were unable to have any children of their own, he most likely felt that by giving money to orphanages, he was partly providing for their upbringing, thereby serving as a sort of father. Finally, the ideals of the American Revolution helped to shape Washington's views on giving. As he fought for and helped to form the government of a sovereign new nation founded on individual freedom, Washington's giving to churches, charities, and debtor prisoners increased. All in all, George Washington's pattern of philanthropic giving is a reflection of who he is remembered as: a moralistic man, a leader to be made an example of, and the "Father of his Country."