How Should I Begin?
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Recognize and use a variety of terms related to the civil society sector appropriately, and identify the characteristics the terms describe.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Provide an example of an organization (or a service that it contributes) from a list of categories of civil society organizations.

This lesson will take students step-by-step through the investigative process necessary to select an organization or project to support with voluntary giving.

PrintThree Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • rank order issues of importance in the selection of an organization to study/investigate.
  • investigate various non-profit organizations by comparing their purpose and mission statements with their objectives and accomplishments.
  • Categories and Subject Areas of Interest (Attachment One)
  • A Guide for Deciding Your Area(s) of Interest (Attachment Two)
  • Conducting Investigations (Attachment Three)
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students to mentally picture a famous person who has advertised a product on television or billboards. Have students share the name of their favorite "spokesperson" and explain why they like the ad.

  2. In a whole group session, let students analyze whether they believe this was an effective way to advertise the product. (Students may mention that the "famous spokesperson" got their attention, or is believable, or is a role model, etc.) Discuss whether or not it is wise to select a product based on whether its "spokesperson" is famous.

  3. Show the class three pictures that could be representative of possible causes in which young persons might show interest. Examples might include a picture of litter, animals that might be seen in a zoo or park, or a sparkling clear stream. Ask students if they should volunteer their energy, time or money for a worthwhile project based on pictures or a famous "spokesperson." Let students form small groups to make suggestions on how wise persons should decide how to volunteer. As groups report, put their recommendations on the board.

  4. To assist students in selecting specific areas of interest for future philanthropic activities, review Categories and Subject Areas of Interest (see Attachment One). Using the areas listed as idea starters, generate a list of areas of concern most mentioned by students, e.g., clean environment or natural disasters.

  5. Help students focus or narrow their interests by going over the questions in A Guide for Deciding Your Area(s) of Interest (see Attachment Two). Using the answers provided by reviewing Attachment Two, rank order the issues according to the way they meet students' criteria.

  6. Distribute Conducting Investigations (see Attachment Three). Using as the source of information, have students begin a study of organizations in the area of interest they previously selected. To begin the search, enter the interest area (and any other parameters) in the boxes.

    An alternative technique is to name organizations already known, one by one, and pull up the necessary information. For each organization selected, record its purpose, mission statement, objectives and accomplishments. When completed, have students compare the charted information and form conclusions about the organization(s) that meet(s) their criteria for support. Again, rank order the organizations. (Note: GuideStar is a searchable database of more than 640,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States. Most of these organizations have a detailed GuideStar Report. Each page of the report looks at one aspect of the organization: mission and programs, goals and results, finances, and leadership. Its goal is to promote philanthropy by providing information that will help donors, institutional funders, and charities become more informed, effective, and efficient.)


Ask each student to compile a checklist of features about two of the organizations studied. Each checklist should include the name and address of the organization, its mission statement, purpose, objectives, accomplishments, and two other interesting features about the organization. Following the two checklists, the student should include a one or two paragraph statement explaining why one organization was more appealing for future acts of philanthropy. Rubric Points Description 4 The completed paper includes all six required elements for both organizations and an explanation statement. 3 Some of the required elements are missing from the organizations' checklist. 2 A checklist is included for only one organization. 1 No checklist is included for the two organizations. Only a statement explaining the choice of organization is attempted. 0 No attempt was made to complete the task. Alternate Assessment: Students may design a poster, write a rap, or prepare a persuasive speech featuring the characteristics that make a particular nonprofit organization appealing.