Why Volunteer?
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Define each of the sectors: business, government, civil society, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.11 Describe the difference between volunteer and paid labor.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.1 Name examples of civil society organizations in the community.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.10 Give an example of an action by an individual or a private organization that has helped to enhance a fundamental democratic principle.
    4. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.

Students will recognize why volunteers are so important to a community and learn some of the things that volunteers do for their community. While written for a Catholic Elementary School, this lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.

PrintFour Thirty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define each of the sectors: business, government, nonprofit, and family.
  • describe the difference between volunteer and paid labor.
  • identify ways volunteers help out in the community.
  • name four nonprofit charitable organizations in the community, state, or nation.
  • assess the value of a person who volunteers.
  • give an example of an action by a volunteer organization that helped to enhance a core democratic value.
  • “The Best Night Out with Dad” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor (Hansen) from Chicken Soup for Little Souls
  • Could You Be a Volunteer? (Attachment One)
  • How Can We Help? (Attachment Two)
  • Newspaper articles about volunteer activities and charitable organizations
  • Field Trip Reflection Sheet (Attachment Three)
Home Connection: 

After the first day, give the students the homework assignment to find ways that people volunteer. They should look in the newspaper and cut out articles and advertisements. They should write about personal or family experiences related to volunteering. When they bring in their research, the class will make a collective scrapbook of volunteer experiences. (See Attachment Two, Lesson Four: How Can We Help?)

  • Canfield, Jack and Mark Victor Hansen. Chicken Soup for Little Souls. Florida: Health Communications, 1997. ISBN: 155874505X.
  • Learning to give Web site<www.learningtogive.org> Resource Room
  1. Anticipatory Set: Write the following question on the board and discuss it with the class: “Could you be a volunteer?” Ask the students to describe the difference between volunteer and paid labor. Ask them to explain why people might choose to volunteer.

  2. Read Chicken Soup for Little Souls: “The Best Night Out with Dad” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Discuss the story and the meaning of the word volunteer. Distribute Could You Be a Volunteer? (Attachment One). On the sheet, tell students to write the definition of volunteer in their own words. Then ask students to write a short story using the word volunteer.

  3. Define for the students the difference between the four sectors: businessgovernmentnonprofit, and family. Each of these sectors is able to give time, talent, and resources. Give examples of a couple organizations or individuals in your community that provide or require volunteers. Have students identify ways the different sectors utilize volunteers to address scarcity. Give the students the homework assignment to find ways that people volunteer. (How Can We Help? Attachment Two.)

  4. As a class, prepare the Jump Into Action scrapbook. This scrapbook will provide ideas for individual or class projects. It will also demonstrate the huge impact that volunteering has on the community. Discuss the importance of volunteering in society. Review the core democratic values and discuss which ones are enhanced by the actions of these volunteers. Keep the book as a (growing) resource of ideas and inspiration.

  5. Have students conduct further research on the learningtogive.org Web site. They can find many nonprofit organizations and lists of philanthropists.

  6. Organize a field trip to a local nonprofit organization. Arrange for a speaker to talk about the importance of volunteering. Before visiting, give students information about the organization so they can each prepare one question to ask about the work, needs, or impact of the organization. (An alternative is to invite a speaker from a nonprofit organization to come to the school.)

  7. After the field trip, distribute Field Trip Reflection Sheet (Attachment Three). Hold a discussion to debrief using their reflection sheets. Discuss whether students are interested in volunteering in some way for that organization. Have students reflect on the benefits and costs of volunteering.


The three attachments will serve as assessments. In addition, have each student write an acrostic poem about the meaning and importance of volunteering. They write the word VOLUNTEER vertically on their paper. Then, they write a word, phrase, or sentence that begins with each letter of the word.