Power in Numbers

9, 10, 11, 12

Using the examples of history, the learners will describe the benefits of forming a non-profit organization to accomplish a cause rather than working alone. They will experience how a non-profit organization works by forming a mock organization within their classroom.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • compare and contrast individual versus organized efforts toward social change in history.
  • list organizational components of sample non-profit organizations.
  • create a mock non-profit organization.
  • Drinking straws, string
  • Student copies of Discussion Sheet (Attachment One)
  • Student copies of Positions in a Non-profit Organization (Attachment Two)
  • Student copies of Sample Non-profit Organizations (Attachment Three)
  • Student copies and a projected image of Understanding Non-profits (Attachment Four)

Guidestar http://www.guidestar.com

NAACP http://www.naacp.org

Southern Christian Leadership Conference https://nationalsclc.org/



  1. Anticipatory Set: Have a straw and a string at every student’s desk before class time. When class begins, tell the students that you are holding a contest. You are going to crush their straws one by one unless they are able to protect them. Any student who can protect his or her straw from being crushed, using only the materials on his or her desk (the straws and strings) will win. Allow time to attempt the task. If students figure out that they can collectively protect their straws by bundling them together with their strings, they win. If not, quickly demonstrate to the class how easy it is to crush one straw and how difficult it is to crush a group of straws bound together. End by asking how this exercise relates to Lesson One: The Power of Protest and to the history of the civil rights movement. Ask them: “Why do we organize?” Let the students know that if they want to participate in “Mix it Up” day this year (as mentioned in Lesson Three: Getting Out of the Box) they will be allowed some class time to prepare and organize the event. However, let the students know that they will be responsible for all levels of organization of the event. Everyone’s opinions will be valued and encouraged. Everyone’s participation will be mandatory. Everyone’s time, talents or treasures will go toward making the “Mix It Up” day event a successful experience.

  2. Review the key points from Lesson One: The Power of Protest, i.e., there were many unorganized protests before the bus boycott, but they failed to result in major policy change. Have the students tell you, from what they previously discussed, why the organized effort succeeded. Ask the students how the outcome would have been different if Rosa Parks was not supported by an organization like the NAACP. Ask one student how it would have felt to be the only person protesting.

  3. Pose the questions from the Discussion Sheet (Attachment One) to the students and break them into paired groups for a short discussion. (Pair one student with another from across the room so that they will be encouraged to move around in the room.) Have students record their responses about organized action versus individual action so that they may turn in their work at the end of the activity. Ask several teams to express their thoughts to the class.

  4. Ask the class to think of a time when they were part of an organization. This could be the student council, a youth group or even a sports team. Have them list all of the roles that were part of that organization while you write them in a single column on a blank overhead sheet. When the students run out of roles to list, write the terms from Positions in a Non-profit Organization (Attachment Two) in a second column on the overhead.

  5. Ask if any of the terms are related. Have students raise hands and take turns drawing a line between a term in the first column related to a term in the second column. Hand out Positions in a Non-profit Organization (Attachment Two) to the students. Go over the terms and definitions. Direct the learners to circle any position in which they are interested. Then ask them to put a star next to a second choice position. Clarify the descriptions if needed. Instruct the students to save this sheet for later.

  6. Hand out Sample Non-profit Organizations (Attachment Three). The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) played a critical role in the success of the bus boycott and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) formed as a result of the bus boycott. Ask the students to go back into their original pairs, read the examples for these first two organizations and identify their missions. Choose a pair to present what they decided was the mission of the NAACP. Choose a pair to present what they decided was the mission of the SCLC. Ask the class why they think non-profit organizations have missions. Thinking in terms of constitutional protections, how are First Amendment rights protected by non-profit advocacy groups like the NAACP and SCLC?

  7. Have the students move into new pairs and choose two examples of local non-profit organizations by visiting www.guidestar.com and searching for organizations in your local area. Have students name their organizations and identify the missions and programs of their organizations in writing. These will be collected to show that students understand the concepts of mission and program.

  8. Display the overhead of Understanding Non-profits (Attachment Four) and distribute student copies. Tell students that the class will have the experience of forming a non-profit organization. As a group, they need to decide who will be the Executive Director, who will be a member of the Board of Directors and who will fill the other roles. Every student must participate at some level, many as committee members. Instruct the class that they are responsible for the formation of their organization. Allow a substantial amount of time for the students to work out their roles and turn the discussion over to the group. Offer yourself as an advisor. Instruct the students to write each student’s name on the overhead according to their assigned role.

  9. Once students have chosen their roles and formed a non-profit organization, they must write the mission statement for their role (committee, position, etc.) and a description of their program. Tell everyone to write their own version of a mission and program description. The mission statement should be related to work the students have been doing in previous lessons. The program is the Mix-it-Up Day discussed in Lesson Three: Getting Out of the Box and Lesson Five: Mix It Up!

  10. The final activity of the day involves compromising on the mission and program descriptions. In this activity, students will demonstrate a working knowledge of non-profit organization. Each committee should combine its individually written mission and program descriptions and present them to their supervisor (Development Director, Marketing Director and Program Coordinator). The supervisors may make changes, additions or deletions and must present their version to the Executive Director. The Executive Director will combine the three versions and present one to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors must approve the mission and program descriptions or request that changes be made. If the Board of Directors requests changes, the Executive Director will ask the Development Director, Marketing Director and Program Coordinator to work with their committees to make those changes. Instruct the students that they must continue the process until they have adopted their mission and program descriptions.


Students will demonstrate their cognitive reasoning through participation in class discussions. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the positions of a non-profit through their participation in the mock organization activity and will have successfully participated in this activity once they are able to present a commonly agreed upon mission and program statement.

Philanthropy Framework

  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. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Describe and compare the characteristics, legal roles and responsibilities of civil society sector boards and how civil society organizations operate.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Give examples of human interdependence and explain why group formation is one strategy for survival.
      2. Benchmark HS.6 Describe nonprofit advocacy organizations and their relationship to first amendment rights.