Identify the Three Sectors

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners recognize that our valuable natural resources are maintained and cared for by government, business, nonprofits, and individuals. The three sectors (and individuals) work together to accomplish what any one of them cannot do alone.

PrintOne Fifty-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • categorize organizations within the three sectors and distinguish their roles.
  • definitions and examples of the three sectors
  • copy of Sector Circles handout


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Have participants picture a natural place, such as a local park, lake, hiking area, nature preserve, or bike trail; or a national or international treasure, such as the Grand Canyon or the ocean. Discuss the value of natural places, wildlife, and recreational areas.

    Discuss how these places would thrive if humans didn't interact with them - do humans do harm or benefit nature? 

  2. Define environmental stewardship as the careful and responsible management of something in nature entrusted to one's care. Discuss whose responsibility it is to responsibly manage the special places in the world that are being damaged by pollution and decisions that harm nature.

  3. Explain that there are three sectors of society that have roles in environmental stewardship: government, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses, plus individuals. The government maintains National Parks or cleans up pollution with funds from our taxes. Nonprofit organizations repair issues, protect wildlife, and maintain parks, museums, and trails. Sometimes groups of people gather to address a need, such as volunteers picking up trash in a park. Businesses (for-profit organizations) may charge admission or maintain locations that take care of natural areas. All of these efforts together are needed to protect the environment.

  4. The handout below or this link provide definitions and examples of the three sectors. Discuss each of the three sectors in detail so that they understand the difference between the three. (You may also include examples of government philanthropy and corporate philanthropy.)

  5. Distribute the handout below, Sector Circles, and duplicate the Venn diagram on a large chart. The participants may work in groups to place the listed organizations in the correct sector circle on the Venn diagram. They may look these up online and add more organizations, especially local ones. In some cases, organizations may fit into more than one sector, and then they should go into the areas that connect both circles. 

  6. Ask and discuss, "How would life in this society be different if we did not have the three sectors?"

    Note: The  U.S. has a very strong nonprofit sector to address needs not covered by the government and business. Other countries may have a bigger government that provides for all citizens' needs, and they don't have as much need for a nonprofit sector. 

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. Benchmark HS.4 Identify, from a given list of functions, which sector is usually responsible for a specific function in society.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify the major operational characteristics of organizations in the civil society sector.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and contrast the basic terms and operations of the for-profit, government, family, and civil society sectors.