Addressing Poverty

9, 10, 11, 12

The learners analyze why nonprofit organizations are needed, especially when for-profit and governmental institutions do some of the same work. They investigate a local nonprofit that works to alleviate poverty in the community and describe the importance of philanthropy in the community.


Lesson Rating 
Print One forty-five to fifty minute class period

The learner will:

  • describe the work of organizations in three economic sectors that work to alleviate poverty in the local community.
  • speculate on the need for government, for-profit organizations and nonprofit organizations to cooperate in the fight against poverty.
  • promote philanthropy and the work of nonprofit organizations.
  • Copies of the handout The Four Sectors of the American Economy/Society
  • Student copies of the handout Work of the Salvation Army
Teacher Preparation 

It is important to be sensitive to the possibility that someone in your class may have some personal experience with homelessness, hunger and poverty.



Reflect on the ways that young people can make a difference in the issue of poverty. Use a graphic organizer to group the reflections visually. 

  • Guidestar: This web site is a wonderful resource for researching nonprofits in your community and across the nation.
  • Also search for individual web sites for nonprofits in your area for mission statements, budgets, service descriptions, etc.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the words “for-profit,” “nonprofit” and “government” on the board. Review the meaning of the terms with students using the handout: The Four Sectors of the American Economy/Society.

  2. Ask the students to discuss why it might be important for the government sector, the for-profit sector and the nonprofit sector to all address the same problems or issues.

    Lead students to understand that different sectors may not be able to address issues completely. For example, the government may not be able to help all people who live in poverty conditions. The nonprofit sector may identify needs and find ways to fill in where the government cannot or will not.

  3. Put the name Salvation Army on the board. As a whole group, have the learners brainstorm what they know about the organization. Through investigation, help students determine if the organization is a for-profit or nonprofit organization.

    Using Work of the Salvation Army (handout), give the learners an idea of the breadth of the work of the organization. Have the students propose what the mission statement for the Salvation Army might be.Then go on the Salvation Army website and read its mission statement. Have the students explore whether Salvation Army International has the same mission statement as the local Salvation Army sites. Discuss how a mission statement drives a nonprofit's work.

  4. Ask the learners if any of the work of the Salvation Army surprises them. Have the learners explain what and why.

    Ask the learners to give reasons for why the Salvation Army needs to exist at all. Why isn’t the government (national, state or local) providing those services instead? (In many cases the services are being provided by both.) Have the learners speculate on the need for government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations to take part in such activities.

  5. Using the list of services of the Salvation Army, briefly discuss community needs for the area. Which of these services do the students think their local area needs? What organizations (nonprofit, for-profit or government) might meet those needs on the local level?

  6. Brainstorm other nonprofits and for-profit organizations that are addressing similar issues of poverty and hunger.

  7. Discuss why philanthropists (people who donate time, talent, money, or their voice for the common good) are important in any community.

    Questions for discussion:

    • Whose responsibility is it to take responsibility when the government or businesses cannot address all the needs in a community?
    • How much should people give or serve?
    • At what age should it start?
    • Are young people capable of making a difference?

Students may complete an informational brochure about the Salvation Army or another local nonprofit. This may serve as an assessment of learning.

Cross Curriculum 

Conduct a needs assessment and make a plan to give time, talent, or treasure to address the needs of a local nonprofit that works toward alleviating poverty.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.
    2. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and discuss the interaction of families, business, government, and the civil society sector in a democratic society.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.7 Explain why the civil society sector rather than the government or private sectors address particular economic areas.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Identify and describe how civil society sector organizations help people nationally and internationally.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Identify and describe civil society sector organizations whose purpose is associated with issues relating to "human characteristics of place" nationally and internationally.