What Is a Nonprofit?

9, 10, 11, 12

Students research what nonprofit organizations are in their regional community and study their purpose and what is in their annual reports. They clarify the differences between a nonprofit and for-profit organization.

PrintTwo Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The Learner will:

  • research what nonprofits are in their region.
  • list some nonprofits and the issues they address.
  • examine what nonprofits share in an annual report and determine what information is most informative.
  • select one nonprofit and write about its work.
  • recognize that their community has many resources that help people.

‚ÄčInternet access

Teacher Preparation 

Be sure you are familiar with the difference between a nonprofit and a for-profit organization. Have a list of local nonprofits to use as examples with which the students may be familiar. 

  • National Council of Nonprofits https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/nonprofit-annual-reports 
  • Great Nonprofits (find local nonprofits) http://greatnonprofits.org/
  • Gates Foundation Annual Report
  • Guidestar.org 


  1. Write the name of a local restaurant or supermarket next to the name of a local nonprofit that addresses the issue of hunger in the community. Have a discussion about how the organizations are the same and different. You may wish to write the traits in a Venn diagram of two interlocking circles. Write the traits they share in the space where the circles overlap. 

  2. Lead the students to define a nonprofit organization (an organization that usually addresses a social cause and uses its profits to further its mission) and talk about how it differs from a for-profit organization. Ask the students to name several nonprofits (local, national, and international). 

  3. Have students work alone, in pairs, or in small groups to conduct research with the following guidelines (See the Bibliography.):

    1. List ten local nonprofits along with their issue area and purpose.
    2. Look at examples of several nonprofit annual reports. 
    3. What is the purpose of an annual report and what is included in the report? How does this help you understand the work of the nonprofit?
    4. Select two or three local nonprofits that are doing good work in an area of your interests. 
  4. Each student will choose one nonprofit organization to study in more detail. They will write a one-page paper about the organization and its work. They will share a brief summary of their paper with the class.


Student papers include the following:

  1. A summary of the nonprofit's purpose and work
  2. An explanation of how this organization's work is part of the nonprofit sector
  3. Examples of their effectiveness
  4. A personal statement of what they like about the organization and its work.
  5. Idea(s) of how young people can get involved with addressing the issue or helping the organziation

The student's oral summary includes the following:

  1. A summary of the organization's purpose and work
  2. Their opinion about its impact on the community or issue area